Finding The Right Nursing Home For A Loved One

SPECIAL REPORT—Each year, approximately three million Americans will need nursing home care at some point. Deciding on the best facility may seem like a considerable task, however the federal government has begun efforts to improve the quality of nursing home care and to help citizens in choosing the facilities with the best care using online tools.


Recently added to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website, online visitors can view facilities ranked by the government for inspection results, staffing data and quality measures.


Visitors can go online to www.medicare.gov/NHCompare, which directly links to the “Nursing Home Compare” system, giving complete access to a database of 16,000 nursing homes in the Medicare system.  Nursing homes are ranked on a scale of one to five in critical areas of nursing home care.


The agency also flags the most troubled inspected facilities on their website.


The website is very helpful in providing both ratings of nursing home facilities in your area, while also providing a thorough, printable booklet on how to appropriately choose a nursing facility and a checklist to help you self-evaluate those centers in which you are considering.


The rating system also received high marks from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.  “With this new rating system, CMS is improving the ability of consumers to readily obtain critical information which should be used in conjunction with in-person visits to a facility.


The agency also is engaging in a four-state pilot program this summer which rewards nursing homes with cash incentives based on improved provided care.


“Medicare is always interested in testing new ways to improve the quality of care in nursing homes,” said Charlene Frizzera, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  “We believe this demonstration to provide incentive payments for superior performance will be informative.”


 The CMS especially hopes to see improvements made in nurse staffing and reduced hospitalizations that are preventable.


In North Carolina, the Department of Health and Human Services also offers a new online star-ranking evaluation of the more than 1,200 nursing home facilities across the state. Site visitors can view the facilities ratings at www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/acls/star/results.asp.


 The site also provides visitors with penalties imposed on specific North Carolina facilities since 2006. This information is provided at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/acls/adultcarepenalties.html.


Choosing a nursing home or a community-based care facility is often a difficult process. Not only is it sometimes disconcerting for families to need to place a loved one in such a facility, the process can be complex when tackling the tasks of determining the best facilities available. While an in-person evaluation is critically important to making a final choice, the online tools available from both federal and state agencies can make the pick easier and give families more peace of mind with their decision.