What is a Nursing Home?
A nursing home is a facility—staffed with skilled nurses and health-care aides—where people can receive medical attention on a 24-hour basis. The patients do not need intensive hospital care, but they cannot be cared for at home. Some nursing homes do resemble a hospital with a medical staff that gives therapy (such as physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy) to patients. Others offer special care units for patients with mental health issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
But not all nursing homes earn high ranks. In fact, according to a Brookings Institute report in 2016, many nursing home’s management team had learned how to “game the system,” by inflating their ratings. Even online services get paid by nursing homes to inflate positive ratings.
Searching for quality, reputable nursing homes is a challenge many families face. A May 2018 article in the New York Times poses this valid question: how do people find quality nursing care? Family members can get advice and valuable tips from various sources and they can search online to find the best places in their local area based on ratings. Some may even link to their local Yelp directory for leads.
But researchers have found that often starred ratings do not reflect how residents may feel, regardless of how many stars a rating receives (from 1 to 5). A statewide report issued by Ohio researchers show that often people like certain facilities despite their low ratings. According to the survey results, while families may prefer high-ranking homes, the satisfaction preferences between low- and high-starred facilities were minor.
The Nursing Home Search
According to the Times’sarticle, families can contact several sources to help them find a high-quality local nursing homes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), for example, has produced an official manual called Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long-Term Care Services and Support. It outlines various topics, among which is how to choose a nursing home based on its services. Among their many suggestions for how to select the best nursing home are these—
- Ask friends and family
- Ask your doctor
- Contact your local senior care center
The CMS established the website Nursing Home Compare several years ago. Updated for today’s audience, the website recalibrated its 5-star rating process to reflect the type of health inspections, the quality of care, and staffing. The website offers straightforward information on how to find a nursing home and a lengthy checklist for visitors to use during a nursing home tour. It includes information on oversight and staffing, the state of the settings’ cleanliness, and on alternatives to nursing homes. For a thorough check, visitors should schedule a walk-through from management. (An unannounced visit is also beneficial to assess the quality of care residents receive.)
The article also mentions ProPublica, a second site that has created a search tool called Nursing Home Inspect. The site has collected the data from CMS to list by state nursing homes that have been fined or that have serious service issues. It also lists those sites that have started a program to improve quality of care. The site also links to more than 80,000 inspection reports to help visitors determine patterns in that home or state. For example, the site’s administrators posted an article about inconsistencies in government-made penalties for different problems and in different states.
Scanning the internet for nursing home ratings turns up other helpful resources.
Among these resources are:
The magazine U.S. News also posted an extensive rating of nursing homes nationwide by state. It also explains its rating factors.
An internet search may turn up web links from privately owned nursing homes with one or several area locations. Also accessible are state-sponsored websites that provide a survey and ranking to help people in that state looking for nursing home answers. These include Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, plus many others under the search term “nursing home rankings by state.”