Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Ever since I was a teenager, my mom has been giving me instructions on how to take care of her as she grows older.

“Put me in a nursing home,” is one of her dictums. As a teenager, I balked at the idea. But as I have learned more through my work with the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers and North American Health Care, I realize that, if I love my mother, a skilled nursing center — either for short-term rehabilitation or long-term care — is where I want her to stay when her health declines.

Currently, approximately 4 percent of the senior population lives in a skilled nursing facility, and the choices available are as varied as the people who live in them. Patients and their families often encounter difficulty when choosing a home. Frequently asked questions including, “Where will I receive the highest quality care?” “Where will I be treated like a resident, not just a patient?” and “Where is the cleanest nursing home with the best food?” weigh on their minds.

In an effort to lighten the burden of such an important choice, North American Health Care created Best Nursing Homes, a national database of facilities ranked “five-star” by Medicare. The ratings cover more than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide and are freely available at

Here are a few questions to ask before selecting a nursing home for yourself or your loved one:

  1. Which skilled nursing facilities are ranked the highest?

One of the main concerns of families is ensuring their loved ones will be safe and receive high-quality care. A reliable resource for gathering information on potential facilities is Using the nursing home compare tool, a patient or family member can easily compare past ratings and performance of skilled nursing facilities as well as areas of concern and/or specific complaints. The five-star system is used to measure quality, health inspections, and level of staffing. One example of a five-star facility in Utah is Orchard Park Rehab in Orem

  1. Do I need short-term rehabilitation or long-term care? And which facility specializes in my diagnosis?

Are you having a total hip replacement? Are you recovering from a heart attack? Are you healing from a wound that requires supervision? These are all examples of diagnoses that require a short-term stay for rehabilitation. If you are looking to move into a skilled nursing facility permanently, then this is considered long-term care. Keep your diagnosis in mind, too. Orchard Park Rehab, for example, is known for both its excellent physical therapy and nursing services.

  1. Will the staff communicate well with me and my loved ones?

Nothing is more important than communicating well with your health care providers. You need a nursing home that will not only inform you of your progress but also work with you to build a care plan for your success. Make sure that you have the ability to have constant contact with your nursing home providers. In fact, some facilities have a live chat option on the website to access a facility representative immediately.

  1. What amenities are provided?

Skilled nursing homes vary widely in the amenities they provide. Some provide individual televisions for each person. Some provide daily social activities. Some hire chefs and dietary supervisors to take care of their needs.I’m still going to try to persuade my mom to live with me. But if she decides a nursing home is right for her, or if it’s medically necessary, I feel comfortable knowing there are great places out there that will provide excellent care in an informed, compassionate environment. Because of the tools provided by Medicare and, I have the resources I need to make a confident decision.