Should You Rely on Government Ratings When Choosing a Nursing Home?
Nursing home ratings can be a good starting point if you’re searching for a long-term care facility for yourself or a loved one. But should you rely on government ratings when choosing a nursing home? We recommend taking these ratings into consideration, but doing more outside research and in-person visiting before you make a final choice.
We’ll look at government nursing home ratings, what they mean, and the advantages and disadvantages of using these metrics to decide upon a residency.
The nursing home abuse and neglect legal team from Shrager & Sachs in Philadelphia urges everyone to do their due diligence when choosing a care facility. Most people who enter a nursing home as a resident plan to spend the remainder of their lives there, and it’s important to find the best fit and safest home.
If you have questions about protecting the rights of nursing home residents after abuse, neglect, or exploitation, please contact our personal injury law office for a free consultation.
Where Can I Find Government Nursing Home Ratings?
Medicare.gov, the official government website for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, provides a tool that allows you to find and compare Medicare-certified nursing homes.
You can search by city, state, zip code, address, or facility name. You can also adjust search results to a smaller or larger radius from the search location.
Understanding the Rating System for Pennsylvania Nursing Homes
If you use the government ratings tool to search for nursing homes in Philadelphia, PA, for example, you can find a good deal of valuable information about each care facility that appears in the search results. You can find:
- Name, address, and phone number of the facility
- The facility’s distance from your specified search location
- The overall facility rating (out of five stars)
- Whether the facility’s rating is above average or below average
- Health inspection rating and details of inspection results
- Staffing information and rating
- Ratings for quality measures (including things like if residents have gotten their flu shots, are in pain, or are losing weight)
- COVID-19 vaccination rates
- Fire safety inspections and emergency preparedness
- Penalties the nursing home has received
- Number of certified beds
- Ownership and frequency of ownership changes
- Whether the facility is for-profit or not
- If there are automatic sprinkler systems in all required areas
- Other information about the facility
While these metrics and reports can provide some level of information about the nursing home you’re researching, they don’t tell the full story. In fact, it’s recommended that you take these ratings with a grain of salt. Much of the data is self-reported by the nursing home itself, and many do not reflect the actual quality of care residents are receiving.
There are also no reviews from residents or family members, so it’s hard to get a sense of the experience of real people from these government ratings alone. Finally, important state-level data, such as fines or penalties levied by the state government or consumer reports made to state government agencies, is not included in these federal reports.
If you see a lot of concerning information on a nursing home’s government ratings page, it may be best to scratch it off your list. But once you’ve narrowed down a few options, continue to research them. Basing your entire decision on the Medicare government rating doesn’t give you enough information to make an informed choice.
Steps To Take When Choosing a Nursing Home
In addition to using Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool, there are other ways to identify good nursing homes in your area that fit your needs.
Here is a list of recommended steps to help you find the right care facility:
- Read the facility’s government ratings
- Research online reviews from residents, family members, and staff
- Ask friends and family for recommendations
- Narrow down your options to a shortlist and begin scheduling visits
Visiting nursing homes is the most important part of the process, as that will give you the best sense of what life is like for residents and staff members.
What To Look for When Visiting a Nursing Home
Begin your visits with an open mind, but be prepared with questions, note-taking tools, and a keen eye for any red flags. Talk to residents, staff members, and facility administration. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And certainly, don’t be afraid to trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. After one round of visits, narrow down your list and do a more in-depth visit to your favorite finalists.
Here are a few things to look for when visiting a nursing home:
- Cleanliness of facilities and rooms
- Staff-to-resident ratios
- Personal hygiene and overall appearance of residents
- Dining area, food, and menu
- Activities available for residents
- Staff response time to resident calls
- Attitude and friendliness of staff members
- Interactions of staff with residents
- Interactions of residents with other residents
- Happiness of residents
- Smells, air quality, lighting, any visible clutter, and other environmental factors
- The location of the facility and proximity to home
- The size of the facility and the number of residents
- Indoor and outdoor amenities
- Costs, contracts, and payment structures
Beware of staff members who appear stressed, unfriendly, or inattentive. If a staff member ignores a resident’s calls, doesn’t know their name, or is rude or short to a resident, it is usually a sign of a poor work and living environment.
Similarly, when facility administration seems unwilling to answer your questions or refuses to show you some parts of the facility, it may be a sign that they are trying to hide something.
Know Your Rights When Choosing a Nursing Facility in Philadelphia
Elders and vulnerable adults residing in nursing homes have the right to a safe, private, protected, high-quality life without fear of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or mistreatment. Any nursing home that fails to provide those basic rights to residents is in violation of state and federal laws.
We at Shrager & Sachs fight for the rights of those residing in nursing homes in Philadelphia and throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.
If your loved one was mistreated in a care facility despite your best efforts to choose the best nursing home, we can help. Contact us for a free consultation about your loved one’s rights under Pennsylvania law and how we can help them seek justice.
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