Resources to Evaluate and Challenge Nursing Homes

When it’s time to find a nursing home for yourself or a loved one, how you start?  A good first step is Medicare’s website, www.medicare.gov.  On its homepage you will find a tab labeled “Find a Nursing Home.” Following that link will take you to the Nursing Home Compare page. That page will help you evaluate nursing homes in your area. It features ratings of nursing homes in every state based on federal inspection and data collection.

Before you look at the ratings though, I recommend reviewing the “Finding a Nursing Home Guide” you can download from the Medicare website. The Guide is comprehensive but easy to read. Chapters include Getting Started, Where to Get Help, Choosing the Type of Care You Need, Steps to Choosing a Nursing Home, Pay for Nursing Home and Other Health Care Costs,  and Living In a Nursing Home.

On the Nursing Home Compare page you can key in a zip code and see ratings for every nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid payments in that zip code area. The rating system is from one star (much below average) to five stars (much above average). The rating categories are health inspections, staffing, quality measures and overall rating. This gives you a quick picture of how Medicare has measured each facility and you may find it eye-opening. There is also a link on the Nursing Home Compare page to explain how the ratings are compiled so you can learn the good and bad aspects on any particular facility. Throughout this page and the website there are tips on questions to ask when you visit a facility. The webpage makes clear that reviewing the ratings alone is no substitute for visiting the facilities you are considering.

You can read why the quality ratings are important to long term or short term residents. These pages discuss how lack of quality can lead to injury, certain illnesses and disease.

If you are already dealing with a facility and have a complaint there is a page of resources on the Medicare website to find each state’s website. Complaints are filed at the state level. Pennsylvania’s Department of Health (DOH) website, www.health.pa.go. not only allows you to complete and file a complaint about a nursing home online but also explains the complaint process.

On Pennsylvania’s DOH website you can also find a state ombudsman to advocate for the person living in a facility. This is an important resource for families who live a distance from the resident in a facility and cannot visit often.

For help doing the research you can contact your county aging and adult services office for assistance. Phone numbers are: Montgomery County 610-278-3000; Chester County 610-344-6350 and Berks County 610-478-6500. County agencies can provide you with resource counselling, senior abuse investigations, advocacy services and referrals.

Take advantage of the federal, state and county resources to help you make good decisions about care and protect the rights of loved ones.

Kurt Holloway

About the author
Kurt Holloway

R. Kurtz “Kurt" Holloway was admitted to practice in 1977 in Pennsylvania and later in the Eastern District Federal Court of Pennsylvania. Mr. Holloway’s areas of concentration are Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Elder and Disability Planning, Real Estate Law, Zoning and Land Development, Business Law and Municipal Law.

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