How to Choose a Nursing Home
When people need more care than they can get at home or in the community, a nursing home may be the best choice. However, choosing a nursing home for a loved one can be an overwhelming and emotionally challenging process. There are resources though that can help you find a nursing home that best meets your loved one’s needs and offers the best in quality care.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is committed to providing consumers with information about Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home care across the nation. The Nursing Home Compare website is a five-star quality rating system that shows, at a glance, how certain nursing homes are rated on regulatory compliance, quality measures and staffing levels.
Nursing homes with 5 stars are considered to have above average quality and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality much below average. In July 2016, CMS added new quality measures to provide even more information on skilled nursing care within a facility.
Also available at the Nursing Home Compare website is a checklist to take with you when you visit a facility. Another great resource, also available on the website is called Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home.
These resources are intended to help you make the best decision you can in choosing a facility to care for your loved one. The most important step is to visit the one you think would best meet your loved one’s needs. Before you go, call to make an appointment so you can meet with someone on staff. You should see if they encourage visits at other times without an appointment. If a nursing home doesn’t offer a “drop-in” policy, this is another issue to think about when making your final decision.
When it’s time to visit the facility notice:
- Residents’ appearances – are they clean, well groomed and dressed for the season?
- Living spaces – is the facility free of odors, clean and at the right temperatures?
- Staff – are they polite, respectful, wear name tags? Pay particular attention to how nursing home staff interact with residents, and how quickly they respond to requests.
- Residents’ rooms – do the rooms have windows, a personal television and phone. Are they private rooms? Do residents share a common bathroom with the resident in an adjoining room and are the bathrooms clean?
- Menus and food – do residents have a choice in food and when they eat? Is staff available to help residents eat?
- Activities – is there an outdoor area and can those who are unable to leave their room be included in outdoor activities?
Referrals are another great way to find a facility; ask your doctor, friends and family members if there is a quality nursing home they have experience with. Once you have a referral, look it up on the Nursing Home Compare website and visit the nursing home with the checklist.
There is help in every state for Medicare members looking for nursing home care:
Every state has a State Health and Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) program which offers help for Medicare members in terms of guidance for nursing homes. The services are free to all Medicare members:
Montana SHIP – 1-800-551-3191
Alaska SHIP – 1-800-478-6065, TTY 800-770-8973
Hawaii SHIP – 1-888-875-9229
Wyoming SHIP – 1-800-856-4398
Choosing the best nursing home doesn’t happen overnight—the process takes time. But with the right tools the process will be easier and you can have peace-of-mind in knowing you chose the best option for your loved one.
About Mountain-Pacific—Mountain-Pacific is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and holds federal and state contracts that allow them to oversee the quality of care for Medicare and Medicaid members. Mountain-Pacific works within its region (Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories of Guam and American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) to help improve the delivery of health care and the systems that provide it. Mountain-Pacific’s goal is to increase access to high-quality health care that is affordable, safe and of value to the patients they serve. Mountain-Pacific works under contract with CMS across a four-state region to make sure nursing homes have the tools and resources they need to ensure they are providing optimum resident care. www.mpqhf.org