Monday, February 22, 2010

Tips on Choosing a Nursing Home

Question: Your aging parent is in the hospital, and will need rehab in a nursing home. The discharge planner asks, “Where do you want your parent to receive care?” If you’re like many of us, you don’t have a clue.

Here’s some help:

Check out the Nursing Home Ratings page on the website. For the last few years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have published a quarterly nationwide rating of nursing home quality. Each health care center receives a rating from 1 to 5 (5 is best) in several categories, plus an overall rating.

Category 1 is recent nursing home state survey results. That includes the routine annual inspection visits plus any special visits due to poor quality..

Category 2 is staffing ratios. This refers to the number of nursing staff on average for each resident.

Category 3 is referred to as quality indicators. Two of the many indicators are the percentage of residents with bed sores or with severe to moderate pain.

The overall rating is most important.

To search for a nursing home:

1. Go to and find the homes in your area. You can search by name, city, county, state or zip code.
2. Compare the homes, especially their overall quality score. You’re wanting to look for 4s and 5s. It’s extremely rare for a nursing home to receive all 5s. Once in awhile even an excellent home will rate a 2 or 3 in one category.
3. Visit yourself. The website has a lengthy checklist which might help some people. I prefer to ask fewer questions: How long have your Director of Nursing and Administrator worked together? “What is your staff turnover rate?” Look for smiles—or lack of them—on residents and staff. Are staff hanging around in the halls or actively engaged with the residents?
4. Other places to contact include your Long Term Care Ombudsman and your State Survey Agency. And of course, your friends.

Tell us about your search for a nursing home for your aging parent.

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