Nursing Home Overview


A nursing home, also known as a skilled nursing facility is a place that provides 24 hour care. These facilities provide skilled nursing care, personal care, custodial care, and rehabilitative care to persons who are ill, recuperating after surgery or physically weak. Some may also offer respite care to give relief to a family caregiver.

A nursing home can be freestanding or part of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) (see page 10). A CCRC allows residents to move from one level of care to another, as needed, and can include independent living, assisted living, and/or a nursing home. A hospital can also house a skilled nursing unit that serves patients who need short-term care and rehabilitation services.


There are generally two kinds of people that need a nursing home.

  1. People recuperating after a hospital stay from an illness or injury. There is usually limited time to find a nursing home before being discharged from the hospital. Family and friends may help in the nursing home search/evaluation process by visiting nursing homes while the patient is in the hospital.
  2. People who need 24 hour intermediate or custodial care, more care than an assisted living facility or home care agency can provide. The person needing this kind of care may not have an immediate time constraint to find a nursing home. When this occurs, proper time can be taken to thoroughly evaluate which home is right for their care needs.


Things to understand before choosing a nursing home.

1. Educate yourself about the nursing homes you are considering. Use our extensive “Questions to Ask” Comparison Worksheet to evaluate three facilities you are considering. If your time frame for finding and choosing a nursing home is limited, use our Nursing Home Quick Tip List (later in this article).

2. Understand costs and financial considerations.

  • What services and products are covered by your insurance(s)?
  • How long are you covered for?
  • What charges are you responsible for paying?
  • What does your long-term outlook look like? (In terms of care needed and financial future.)

3. Know your rights and responsibilities as a patient in a nursing home. Visit Florida’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program at for more information.


Educate Yourself Early

Education is the key to making sure you choose the nursing home that is best for you or your loved one. Start the process early by educating yourself as soon as it is determined that a nursing facility is needed and by consulting key advisors that you trust. Studies show that those who do their due
diligence will have an overall better nursing home experience than those who do not. There is a difference in the quality of care and the services provided among nursing facilities. Some are better than others.

What Care Services Do You Need?

The medical needs of nursing home residents vary greatly between individuals. Likewise, the nursing care services available vary greatly between facilities. Although every nursing home provides basic health care services, some facilities serve special needs like wound care, Alzheimer’s, or the care of tracheotomies. Some even have specialized medical equipment to take care of patients on dialysis or ventilators. If you are being discharged from a hospital, your physician or discharge planner can provide you with a list of nursing homes that can cover your specific health care needs.

Call, Tour & Decide

Start by calling the facilities on your initial list. Ask to set up a time that you can come by for a visit and tour the facility. It is a good idea to find homes close to the patient’s loved ones so they are able to visit more frequently. Ask family and friends for recommendations and whether they have had any personal experience with any of the homes on your list. From your initial list, you will be able to narrow the field of choices down to two or three that you would like to visit. Touring the nursing home is perhaps the most important determining factor when evaluating facility. Make sure you take along our Nursing Home “Questions to Ask” Comparison Worksheet or use our Nursing Home Quick Tips List if time is short when touring the home you are considering. Do more than just talk to the administrator and the admissions director. Talk to the care staff, if possible, while touring. Keep your eyes open to both what you see and what you don’t see happening during the tour.
Even though time is sometimes critically short for selecting a nursing home, be selective.

Nursing Homes “Questions to Ask” Worksheet

We have developed a Yes/No “Questions to Ask” Worksheet where you can compare three different nursing home & rehabilitation centers evaluating a variety of health care services and residential amenities and accommodations.

Sage Aging ElderCare Guide
Author: Sage Aging ElderCare Guide

Sage Aging ElderCare Guide was created to lead families to good information on senior living and care choices. You will find educational articles, videos, podcasts, worksheets and searchable provider directories on this website to help you make quality decisions. Feel free to contact us at or call us at 863-802-5043 if you need additional assistance.