Stories of nursing home abuse are heartbreakingly common across the United States, especially with critical understaffing issues. This can make it difficult for families to find an assisted living or skilled nursing facility with experienced caregivers, clean inspection reports, positive reviews, and no nursing home neglect or abuse allegations.
Whether you have just begun your search for long-term care facilities or are looking to move your loved one to another facility, here are some tips for choosing a nursing home so your loved one can get the care they need.
1. Consider Nursing Home Facilities Close to Home
Looking for nursing homes or assisted living facilities close to home means you may be able to visit them regularly and take a more active role in their care.
Frequent visits give nursing home residents the emotional and social support they need, ensuring they are not isolated or dealing with mental health impacts from loneliness. It also allows you to watch out for signs of nursing home abuse.
Choosing a nursing home facility close to home allows you to:
- Be a part of the decision-making for your loved one’s care plan
- Monitor your loved one’s quality of life
- Observe meal times, when allowed, to monitor food safety and quality
- Witness nursing home staff’s demeanor toward residents
2. Review Each Nursing Home Facility’s Medicare Rating
You can check the quality, staffing, health inspection reports, and the overall rating of a facility on the Care Compare database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This database compiles reports from the federal government on certified nursing facilities in the U.S.
Information about nursing homes in this database includes:
- How many nursing home residents have been treated for pressure ulcers (bedsores)
- Number of registered nurses available per resident, per day
- Overview of staff and resident interactions
- Staffing numbers (registered nurses, nursing assistants, etc.) to meet the treatment and care needs of all residents
- Whether food is stored, handled, and prepared according to safety standards
It also shows which facilities are facing deficiencies or a breach in the standard of care set by the Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
3. Look for Deficiencies With a Nursing Home Inspection Tool
CMS Nursing Home Compare database is a great starting point, but you can also get further information about deficiencies in nursing homes by visiting ProPublica’s Nursing Home Inspect Tool.
This tool compiles information from the CMS database in an easy-to-read format, including reports on all deficiencies for nursing homes in all 50 states. The tool is updated monthly.
Data shown in this tool may include past reports of:
- Abuse allegations, including sexual, emotional, physical, financial
- Failures in quality of care, such as not providing adequate personal care, making medication errors, delaying transfer for a hospital stay, and more
- Fines, or penalties given to nursing home facilities for violating Medicare guidelines
- Improper food safety, storage, handling, and quality, like not adhering to specialized diets, not labeling food properly, or providing poor-quality food
- Understaffing, which can lead to a lack of adequate care services, neglect, and wrongful death
If care homes you are considering show up in these reports, it’s worth finding another facility or looking into how they plan to improve and restore resident safety.
4. Consider Cost, Services, and Amenities
Not all nursing homes will provide the same services and amenities, so it is important to take a close look to see if the facility will meet all of the needs and preferences of your loved one.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a nursing home based on its services:
- Accessibility: Most nursing homes will be wheelchair-accessible, but if your loved one needs communication accessibility, like staff who speak different languages, talk with the team to see if these options are available.
- Additional care or therapy services: If your loved one needs physical therapy, occupational therapy, or memory care, ensure the facility provides or can help access these services.
- Shared living spaces: Some facilities require residents to share living spaces with fellow residents. This may not be what your loved one wants, so check with the home before committing.
- Social activities: Your loved one will need ongoing social stimulation, so the facility should have a diverse social program.
- Other resources and activities: Activities like engaging with fellow residents in group settings can improve the quality of life in a nursing home.
5. Schedule an In-Person Tour and Ask Questions
Finally, when you are ready to decide on a long-term care provider, you can schedule an in-person tour to review the facility up close and ask questions.
Be sure to schedule a tour for each facility you’re considering. Take notes, and bring a checklist of questions with you to cover all your concerns.
It may also be helpful to ask staff how they like working there and residents how they enjoy living there.
Help Is Available After Nursing Home Abuse
These tips are only a starting point for finding the best nursing home care for your loved one. Sadly, even after careful consideration, many families may still be affected by understaffing, abuse, and neglect. However, you don’t have to go through this alone.
The Nursing Home Abuse Center is here to offer awareness and advocacy for nursing home residents across the country. If you or a loved one have experienced inadequate care or abuse, we are here to help.