How to Choose a Skilled Nursing Facility

There are many reasons people seek care at a skilled nursing facility, also commonly referred to as a nursing home. Some individuals go to a nursing home for a short stay to recover from an injury or surgery. However, in most instances, people who enter a nursing home permanently live there because they need continuous care due to physical conditions and/or memory impairment.

Choosing a nursing home for you or a loved one can be a difficult and confusing decision. That’s why it’s important to research your options, according to Megan Bolden, MHA, NHA, administrator of Penn Highlands Elk Pinecrest Manor, a 138-bed skilled nursing facility providing long-term, short-term and respite care to individuals from St. Marys and the surrounding communities.

“Naturally, you want the best care possible for your loved one or yourself,” Bolden said. “There are many proactive steps you can take to help make the right choice for your family.”

According to Bolden, the first step is to locate nursing homes in your area and compare the quality of those you are considering. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, created the Five-Star Quality Rating System to help consumers, their families and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily and to help identify areas about which they may want to ask questions.

You can visit and enter your zip code to view the ratings of all facilities within a specific radius.

“The higher the star, the better the rating,” Bolden said. “For instance, Pinecrest Manor is rated five-star, which is the highest. The rating is based on our overall performance in health inspections, staffing and quality of resident care measures. It’s a great indicator of our commitment to providing the best care possible.”

After narrowing down the options, Bolden encourages taking time to visit each facility and meet with the admissions coordinator.

At this time, determine if the nursing home accepts insurance coverage, Medicare, Medical Assistance or private pay. For eligible patients with qualifying stays, Medicare will cover up to 100 days. However, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the majority of people who enter a nursing home initially pay for their care out-of-pocket. They may eventually qualify for Medicaid as they use up their resources over time.

In addition to discussing payment, it’s also important to determine what services the nursing home offers on site. For instance, they may offer physical, occupational and speech therapies, a dedicated memory care support unit for those with Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive impairment, specialized medicine, IV Therapy, pain management, counseling, pharmacy services, a beautician/barber, pastoral care, nutritional services and transportation to outside health appointments.

When touring the facility, Bolden said there are many questions to consider, some include:

  • Is the facility licensed?
  • How is the quality of the food and what are the dining options like?
  • Is the facility clean and odor-free?
  • Are there activities available to residents?
  • What amenities are available to residents?
  • Is there an extra charge for cable and telephone services?
  • How do staff members interact with residents and other staff members?
  • Where are residents transferred to if they require hospital care?
  • What is the facility’s bed hold policy when a resident is transferred to a higher level of care?

As you’re touring each facility, you may want to bring a checklist of questions to ask. Medicare has a free comprehensive checklist available at

“Don’t be afraid to tour the facilities you are considering more than once,” Bolden said. “Seeing the high quality care provided at a facility firsthand can give you peace of mind when making your choice.”
To learn more about Pinecrest Manor, call 814-788-8488 or visit