How to Choose a Skilled Nursing Facility/Nursing Home:

Selecting a skilled nursing facility, or nursing home, is one of the most important decisions you may be asked to make, either for yourself or for a family member. Ideally, this decision would be made far in advance with adequate planning. However, it is sometimes made during a crisis, such as a severe illness or following surgery. The information on this page will help you make an informed decision when searching for a nursing facility.

The first step is to make a list of nursing facilities in your desired location. You can find a list of nursing homes on our Facility Locator page.

Before visiting the facilities on your list, you may wish to contact them by telephone. This could save you some time, since some facilities may not offer the type of care you or your loved one requires. Make a list of the name, address and phone number of those facilities that can meet your unique needs.

At those facilities, ask if they have beds currently available or ask to be put on their waiting list. Placement on waiting lists is common is Alabama’s nursing facilities. Make sure you write down the facility name, the date that you called and the name of the person with whom you spoke.

Next, make an appointment for a complete tour of those homes in which you are interested. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Talk to residents, family members, staff and volunteers. Make a point to sample the food served to residents. Ask to see and make sure the facility and administrator have current licenses from the State of Alabama. If they do not, you may be dealing an illegal business that is falsely claiming to be a nursing facility. Also, you will want to discuss payment options. The admissions director can help determine if you or your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, Medicare or other programs.

Of the items which you will want to consider and/or inquire about when you are considering nursing facility options include the following:


  • Do you feel welcome when you enter?
  • Is there a window in every bedroom?
  • Does each bed have a privacy curtain?
  • Does each bed have a nurse call bell?
  • Is there easy access to each bed?
  • Is there adequate closet space?
  • Is the facility clean and free from unpleasant odors?
  • Are the hallways and rooms hazard free?
  • Are the bathrooms convenient to the bedrooms?
  • Is there a sink in each bathroom?
  • Is there a nurse call bell to use in the bathroom?
  • Are there hand grips near the toilets?
  • Do showers and tubs have non-slip surfaces and hand grips?
  • Is there outdoor furniture for residents?
  • Are there walkways outside?
  • Are visiting hours convenient?
  • How are roommates selected?


Dining Room:

  • Is the dining room attractive?
  • Are the tables and chairs comfortable?
  • Is there adequate access for wheelchairs in the dining room?
  • Is the food tasty and attractive?
  • Are residents given enough time to eat?
  • Do residents receive help eating if they need it?
  • Are personal likes and dislikes taken into account when planning the menu?
  • Is there a variety from meal to meal?
  • Is food delivered to the rooms of residents unable to eat in the dining room?



  • Is there an activities room?
  • Are activities tailored to the individual’s needs and interests?
  • Have arrangements been made for worship services?
  • Are group and individual activities planned?
  • Are outside trips available?
  • Is there a social services worker available to assist residents and families?
  • Does the facility have contacts with community groups, such as local schools, pet therapy programs or Scouts?



  • Do staff members show interest in and affection for individual residents?
  • Are staff members courteous and respectful?
  • Do staff members know residents’ names and take time to chat with them?
  • Do staff members respond quickly to resident calls for assistance?
  • Does the staff encourage family visits?
  • Is the administrator available to answer questions, hear complaints or discuss problems?
  • Is the resident happy with the location?
  • Are barbers and beauticians available?


Other Questions:

  • Will family and friends be able to visit?
  • How close is the nearest hospital?
  • Is emergency transportation readily available if needed?
  • What types of therapy programs are available?
  • Does the facility have a description of resident rights and responsibilities posted?
  • Does the facility have a resident council?
  • Does the facility have a family council?
  • Are there private areas for residents to meet with family, visitors or physicians?
  • Is a physician available in an emergency? Are personal physicians allowed?
  • Are residents and families involved in developing the resident’s care plan?
  • Are all services covered under the basic rate? If not, is a list of specific services not covered in the basic rate available?
  • Is the general atmosphere welcoming?


If you are selecting a nursing facility for someone else, be sure to involve this person in the decision. Moving to a new home is difficult for anyone, but is often more difficult when one is not in good health and unsure of the move.

Be prepared to ease the transition by accompanying him or her on admission day. Also be ready to visit the new resident regularly and make sure other friends are willing to do so.