Checklist for Choosing a Nursing Facility


You may want to use this checklist when you visit nursing facilities to help you compare one with another.  An asterisk * indicates that this item is required by licensing or certification regulations.


  • Does the facility have a framed, posted license from the State Department of Health?*
  • Does the administrator have a current license from the State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators?*
  • Is the facility certified to participate in Medicare and/or Medicaid?


  • Location Convenient for resident's personal doctor? Convenient for frequent visits by family and friends?

  • Accident Prevention *
    • Rooms and halls well-lighted, free from glare?
    • Free of hazards underfoot?
    • Chairs sturdy and not easily tipped?
    • Non-slip surface on hall and bath floors?
    • Handrails in hallways and grab bars in bathroom? 
    • Fire Safety?
      • By January 1, 1993, does the facility have a sprinkler system?
      • Does the facility have smoke detectors?
      • Written emergency evacuation plans?
      • Fire drills at least quarterly?
      • Exit doors clearly marked and not locked or obstructed on the inside?
      • Stairways enclosed and doors to stairways kept closed?

  • Bedrooms *
    • Open into hall?
    • Window?
    • No more than four beds per room?
    • Easy access to each bed?
    • Drapery for each bed?
    • Nurse call bell by each bed?
    • Fresh drinking water at each bed?
    • At least one comfortable chair per patient?
    • Reading lights?
    • Clothes closet and drawers?
    • Room for a Wheelchair to maneuver?

  • Toilet Facilities *
    • Easy for a wheelchair patient to use?
    • Sink?
    • Nurse call bell?
    • Hand grips on or near toilets?
    • Bathtubs and showers with non-slip surfaces?
    • Well-lighted?

  • Cleanliness *
    • Free of unpleasant odors?
    • Incontinent patients given prompt attention?

  • Day room *
    • Does it appear to be used by residents?
    • Lamps, tables and comfortable chairs?
    • Books and games available?

  • Dining Room/Food Services *
    • Attractive and pleasant?
    • Comfortable chairs and tables?
    • Meals match a posted menu and attractively served?
    • Those needing help with eating receive it?
    • Meals served on a regular schedule?
    • Residents encouraged to eat in dining room?
    • Special diets available?

  • Kitchen *

    • Food preparation, dishwashing and garbage areas separated?
    • Food needing refrigeration not standing on counters?
    • Kitchen help observe sanitation rules?

  • Isolation Room

    • At least one bed and bedroom available for patients with contagious diseases?
    • Are grounds attractive, well kept and accessible to residents? *
    • Is the home air conditioned?
    • Does the facility seem to be in good repair and condition? *
    • a) Is there an area where patients can sit or walk outside?
      b) Is there a secure area outside for residents with dementia?


  • Medical
  • Physician available in emergency?*
  • Regular medical attention assured?*
  • Thorough physical immediately before or upon admission?*
  • Medical records and plan of care kept?*
  • Other medical services (dentists, optometrists, etc.) available regularly?*
  • Freedom to choose pharmacy?*
  • Does the home have an x-ray machine?
  • Emergency transportation available?*
  • Nursing Services
  • Registered nurse responsible for nursing staff in a skilled nursing facility with 25 or more beds?
  • LPN or RN on all shifts seven days per week?
  • Nurse Aides certified through a state approved training program?
  • Activities Program
  • Individual resident choices and preferences observed?*
  • Group and individual activities?*
  • Residents encouraged but not forced to participate?*
  • Outside trips for those who can go?
  • Volunteers from the community work with patients?
  • Activities director or coordinator on staff?*
  • Activities offered to residents confined to their beds or rooms?*
  • Religious Observances *
  • Arrangements made for patient to worship as he or she pleases?
  • Religious observances a matter of choice?
  • Social Service
  • Social Worker available to help residents and families?*
  • Family Forums held on a regular basis?*
  • Facility has a Residents' Council that meets on a regular basis?
  • Facility has a Family Council that meets on a regular basis?
  • Grooming
  • Barbers and beauticians available for men and women?
  • Laundry
    • Personal clothing laundered in nursing home?
    • Special efforts made to prevent loss of clothing?
    • Laundry cost included in monthly fee?



  • Facility provides special therapy (physical, speech, occupational) to meet the residents' needs?*
  • Can arrangements be made to meet any special needs or requirements of the resident?*
  • Is additional supervision or assistance available for confused residents or those with dementia?*
  • Are orientation clues (e.g. directional signs, large clocks and calendars) conspicuously displaced?*



  • Courteous and helpful toward residents and family?*
  • Is the administrator available to residents and their families during normal business hours?*



  • Contract clearly states what services and goods are and are not included in the basic fee (e.g. personal toiletries, diapers, special diets, therapies, medical supplies, extra supervision or assistance, etc.)?*
  • Are the monthly charges pro-rated in case the resident has to be discharged, or dies, before the end of the billing period?
  • Is the resident given a monthly itemized accounting of services and fees, and an accounting of the personal funds available?*



  • Resident's Rights*
  • Informed of rights and responsibilities?
  • Encouraged to exercise rights as a resident and citizen (e.g. voting, etc.)?
  • May manage own finances if you choose to, receive an accounting if not?
  • Have privacy for telephone calls and visits?
  • May choose own physician, pharmacy, and care providers as long as you can afford the fees?
  • Encouraged to take part in planning own care?
  • May keep own clothes and possessions (given space limitations)?
  • Married couples may share a room if they want to?
  • Telephone numbers of the Department of Health, Division of Licensure and Certification, Complaint Coordinator;
  • The State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (Toll-free: 1-800-552-3402) and any local Ombudsman Program; and the Department of Rights for Virginians with Disabilities (Toll-free: 1-800-552-3462) are posted?
  • Is there an admission preference given by payment source?
  • Were you given information on the facility's waiting list, including the number of persons on the list and the dates when other persons were placed on the waiting list?*
  • Residents appear alert, dressed, and well cared for?
  • Visiting hours are convenient for family and friends?
  • Overall atmosphere is clean comfortable and secure?
  • Is there a vacancy available?


Source:  Virginia Department for the Aging, part of the Virginia Department for the Aging and Rehabilitative Services


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