Selecting a Nursing Home: What to Consider and What are the Ratings

May 20, 2015

Nursing HomeDeciding which nursing home is appropriate for yourself or a loved one can be very challenging.  Where does the search even begin?

Remember too that nursing homes aren’t just long term care residences, they also provide short-term skilled nursing care such as after a hospitalization.

Every day about 1.3 million people are cared for by the more than 15,500 nursing homes certified by Medicaid, Medicare, or both.  This certification requires the nursing homes meet certain minimum standards to be eligible for Medicaid and Medicare payments.  Facilities that do not receive those payments are not included in the ratings.

In beginning a search for a nursing home, start with The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revamped ratings of the nation’s nursing homes.  The revised 5 Star Quality Rating System makes it easier to learn about facilities in your area.

The ratings consider three areas: 1) state health inspection measures, 2) staffing measures, and 3) quality measures.  The staffing and quality measures use data supplied by the individual nursing home.

There are very specific details for each facility on the Nursing Home Compare website. Enter your zip code or city and state to get a list of facilities within up to 25 miles.  Then you can click on “add to compare” to see how up to three compare and get side-by-side data for each.

CMS has published a Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long Term Care and a Nursing Home Checklist to print and take along when visiting each nursing home.

The Kaiser Family Foundation studied the state-by-state CMS ratings for the nation’s nursing homes and has just released its findings.

Some of the report’s key findings are:

  • More than one-third of nursing homes certified by Medicare or Medicaid have relatively low overall star ratings of 1 or 2 stars, accounting for 39 percent of all nursing home residents.  Conversely, 45 percent of nursing homes have overall ratings of 4 or 5 stars, accounting for 41 percent of all nursing home residents.
  • For-profit nursing homes, which are more prevalent, tend to have lower star ratings than non-profit nursing homes.  Smaller nursing homes (with fewer beds) tend to have higher star ratings than larger nursing homes.
  • Ratings tend to be higher for measures that are self-reported (quality measures and staffing levels) than for measures derived from state health inspections.
  • In 11 states, at least 40 percent of nursing homes in the state have relatively low ratings (1 or 2 stars). In 22 states and the District of Columbia, at least 50 percent of the nursing homes in the state have relatively high overall ratings (4 or 5 stars).

Looking at our area and the CMS’s lowest 1 star to the highest 5 star ratings, the Kaiser report finds the following overall ratings:

Nursing Homes

Appendix Table 2

These resources will provide information on what to consider in selecting a nursing home, very detailed ratings on each facility, and a checklist to use when visiting the nursing homes you are considering.

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