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Top Reasons for Nursing Home Star Ratings

It’s human nature to ignore unpleasant tasks until the last minute.  Like finding the best nursing home for a short stay or to remain under nursing care for the remainder of life on earth.   Few of us, outside the healthcare industry, would spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon visiting prospective nursing homes.  In fact most of us have no idea what to look for in a nursing home.

 

Let us start with some terminology.   Some nursing homes specialize in certain types of care such as Alzheimer's Disease and dementias.  The Veterans Administration has nursing homes just for retired and injured military members.  In-patient rehabilitation facilities look like a nursing home stay in many ways, but the goal is to regain lost functions and to return to the community.  Sub-Acute long term care hospitalizations appear to be nursing homes for very intensive nursing care.

Lastly,  an Assisted Living Facilities is not a nursing home per se, even when nursing services are provided once a day.  Assisted Living Facilities are considerably less expensive than nursing home stays and offer substantially less in services.   Price is the biggest distinction between these.  A nursing home, for example, can cost $82,000/year and an Assisted Living  Facility runs $32,000.  These rates vary depending location and reputation.

For this discussion, a nursing home a facility with registered nurses and physicians managing the care and assisted by many other therapies and services to manage the chronic conditions and disabilities of the residents.  Some states also call these homes long term care facilities.

Do your homework when researching a nursing home.  The Centers For Medicare and Medicaid have created a five star system to help consumers compare nursing home on an ‘apples to apples’ basis.  Here are the five elements in the star rating:

 

  1. Quality of care ratings to analyze the procedures and staff effectiveness in preventing bedsores, preventing falls, keeping vaccines, administering medication up to date and many other proactive measures to reduce unnecessary suffering.
  2. Staffing ratios in the facility.  Having the right amount of skilled staff available to provide care is a constant battle in the nursing home industry.
  3. Functional care reviews uses a sophisticated rating system to be sure that the facility is operating as designed.  Are meals served?  Is the facility cleaned on a regular schedule. What kind of consumer complaints have been filed against the facility?
  4. Health inspections performed by the State regulating agency.  The ranking on inspection findings is relative to the performance of other nursing homes with only the very best 10% receiving the highest mark.  
  5. Composite score for all the above elements.  The Nursing Home Star Rating issues a single result placing the number of stars for each facility as the sum of all the elements.  This offers a busy consumer a quick reference point to compare ‘apples to apples.’


Nursing Home Compare is a national ranking system.  Many states have their own rating scale in addition.  I recommend you carefully review all of the available information and make scheduled and unscheduled visits to the list of finalists.  While you are at it, ask them if they use a system like REUNIONCare to communicate with the family and other professional healthcare providers.  Remember the nursing home admission and marketing staff want each consumer to select the right facility for the right reasons.