Selecting a nursing home can be somewhat overwhelming, but with the proper planning, it can also be a rewarding experience. If you decide that you need help selecting a home, you may wish to seek out the ombudsperson (AWM-budz-per-sun) service in your state. This is a free service that helps families find the right facility to suit their individual needs. If you decide to look on your own, you should plan ahead because many of the best nursing homes have extensive waiting lists. It's also a good idea to ask physicians, friends, clergy, or the health department for recommendations. When you actually begin to visit homes, you should keep in mind certain evaluation points. First, determine what you want in a nursing home by considering issues such as the level of care required, proximity to family and the nearest hospital, and the kind and number of activities offered. To get a realistic picture of how the home is actually run, you should drop in unexpectedly, rather then during an open-house day. During your inspection, look at the quality and conditions of the furnishings, and notice whether personal possessions have been brought from home. To get an idea of the physical, emotional, and mental status of the residents, talk to them and their visitors to see if they're satisfied with the conditions. Lastly, be wary of any home where more than a few residents are restrained, seem overmedicated, or appear dehydrated.