5 Tips for Selecting the Best Skilled Nursing Facility

When a loved one needs recovery, rehabilitation, or specialized services, a skilled nursing facility can provide supportive care 24 hours a day. But if a health crisis occurs that requires a quick decision, how can you know which facilities are best?


This article provides a closer look at skilled care and offers five tips for selecting the best-skilled nursing facility.


What is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

A skilled nursing facility, or nursing home, is a type of senior care facility where patients can receive short- or long-term rehabilitative care services. These services are provided by a team of healthcare professionals from multiple disciplines and can include physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, dietitians, therapists, and other support staff.


Patients in need of skilled nursing care often require assistance during a time of transition, such as after an illness, surgery, fall, or injury. Some individuals need intensive rehabilitation services to safely return home following a hospital stay.


Skilled nursing facility services typically include:


  • A private or semi-private room
  • Skilled nursing care: supervision and assistance with daily living activities like getting dressed, personal care, showering, eating, using the restroom, walking and transferring, medication management, fall prevention, wound care, etc.
  • Meals, with oversight from a dietitian
  • Therapy services: physical and occupational therapies, speech-language services
  • Cognitive and memory care support
  • Guidance from a social worker
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Transportation (via ambulance, if traditional transportation is not a safe or accessible option for the individual)
  • Other services such as housekeeping, laundry, social programming, community activities and events, spiritual support, and mental health counseling may also be included and/or available


Selecting the Right Facility

Understanding what a skilled nursing facility offers and how services vary by location is important to selecting the right facility. Caregivers and family members who are familiar with skilled care facilities in advance of a health crisis are better prepared to advocate for a loved one when care needs change.

When a referral is made that requires a skilled nursing stay, request your facility of choice when planning for discharge. Admission availability can fluctuate, and facility placements are not guaranteed, but having a voice in the process and sharing your preferences is key to ensuring your loved one receives the best care.


5 Tips for Selecting the Best Skilled Nursing Facility

1. Know the facility’s reputation.

Knowing the facility’s reputation is a good place to start when comparing skilled nursing facilities. Provider or physician recommendations can be helpful, but word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or other family members may be the most telling. Ask honest questions of others who have experienced or received care from a particular facility.


  • Examine reviews and ratings.

Consider a facility’s consumer reviews across different platforms and evaluate their ratings. Nursing homes and skilled care facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are regulated by the State(Department of Health) and Federal authorities (CMS).


Look at a facility’s star rating as a benchmark for average, above-average, or below-average quality. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) applies its five-star rating to facilities that have passed the health inspection and review process with high scores.


Newsweek ratings for America’s Best Continuing Care Retirement Communities can also offer helpful guidance when making an informed decision about skilled nursing care within a continuum setting.


  • Best Nursing Homes Designation

U.S. News & World Report applies a designation of “Best Nursing Home” to facilities that satisfy U.S. News’s assessment of quality care, service, and overall performance, as referenced in their methodology. Ratings include data on staffing, medical outcomes, resident complaints, and vaccinations, among other metrics.


To be recognized as one of the U.S. News Best Nursing Homes, a facility must be “High Performing” in short-term rehabilitation, long-term care, or both. For more detailed information about why U.S. News rates nursing homes, how they determine the ratings, or this year’s “Best Nursing Homes” methodology, visit    https://health.usnews.com/senior-care/understanding-the-badge.


2. Meet the staff & tour the facility.

Scheduling an in-person visit to different skilled nursing facilities can provide a wealth of information. This process allows individuals or families the opportunity to meet the facility’s staff, experience the culture, and make the necessary observations to inform their decisions. As you do this, keep the following questions top-of-mind:


  • Are team members smiling, pleasant, and responsive?
  • Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
  • Is the atmosphere warm and welcoming?
  • Are engaging programs taking place for patients/residents?
  • Is the rehabilitation area spacious and well-equipped for therapy?
  • How often can patients receive therapy services?
  • What kind of room options are available?
  • What is/is not included in the rate?
  • Does the facility have space outside for sitting, walking, or family visits?
  • What is the visitation policy?
  • What is a typical day/week like for a patient/resident?

For a more extensive list, visit medicare.gov, which offers a printable checklist to reference when visiting skilled nursing facilities. Additional resources for learning about cost, care plans, and assessments are also available.


3. Ask about specialized programs.

While most skilled nursing facilities provide similar offerings, specialized programs can vary by location. Talk to an admissions counselor at the facility to learn more about available programs and services. They generally include:


  • Surgical & Medical Recovery
  • Orthopedics/ Joint Replacement
  • Heart Failure
  • Cardiac & Pulmonary Care
  • Respiratory Rehabilitation
  • IV Therapy
  • Palliative Rehab & Hospice Care
  • Care of Advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease

4. Understand the cost and coverage.

The cost of a skilled nursing stay can vary greatly by region and by the types of services used. Most patients’ insurance coverage includes a short-term inpatient stay at a skilled nursing facility when medically needed. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare beneficiaries are “covered for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility and face out-of-pocket costs for each additional day they spend in skilled care.” Depending on the type of Medicare plan, there may also be co-payments required for the first 20 days or throughout days 21 – 100.


A long-term care insurance policy may help cover the cost of skilled nursing care for those who have planned for this option, but in general, families can expect to pay anywhere from $250 - $500 or more per day for skilled nursing care.


U.S. News offers caregivers and seniors additional nursing home statistics for evaluating skilled nursing care costs while the Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey can be helpful for families planning for long-term care costs and related services.


5. Join a waitlist.

Healthcare availability and options are ever-changing in today’s world and once you have identified your preferred facilities, it’s important to inquire about placement on their waiting lists. If your loved one needs long-term skilled nursing care, this step will help ensure they receive care in a facility you approve of and trust. Joining at least three waitlists gives seniors and their families additional options and greater control, especially if an urgent need requires an immediate decision.


While joining a wait list in no way requires you to accept an opening if it’s offered, it does put the power to choose in your hands. When visiting facilities, ask about how long their waitlist is and what steps are required to apply.


The Advantage of Skilled Nursing Care Within a Continuum

Selecting a skilled nursing facility that is part of a continuum of care offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care services is a desirable option for many seniors and their families. The breadth of services available to residents and the convenience of having these services all at one location provide more efficient care delivery, seamless transitions when care needs change and greater peace of mind.


The Edgemere Difference

Edgemere Senior Living provides individualized services and care plans designed to meet each resident’s specific care needs and provide an engaging life to maximize their autonomy. To learn more about Edgemere’s premier independent living, assisted living, memory care, five-star skilled nursing, and short-term rehabilitation options at its North Dallas location, contact us today.