Choosing the Best Nursing Facility For Your Loved One

There are three basic steps you must take in order to find the bestnursing facility for your loved one. First, you must create a list of nursing facilities that you are interested in. You may choose to do this by asking friends and family for recommendations, talking to your doctor, or by researching facilities in your area. 

Next, you’ll begin comparing the nursing facilities on your list. Some of these options will likely drop off the list as you delve deeper into your research. Finally, when you have a shortlist of nursing facilities that you are most interested in, arrange a visit to each one to help you make your final determination. 

Nursing Home Compare

Nursing Home Compare is an online tool that helps you find and compare nursing facilities. It has a comprehensive database of all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes in the U.S. You can search by name (if someone you know gave you a personal recommendation, for example) or geographic location. 

Nursing Home Compare also enables you to compare the quality of individual nursing facilities. The tool details: how each nursing home scored on its most recent health inspection; nursing home staffing data; quality measures; and fire safety inspection results. 

Regular nursing facility inspections measure how a facility scores across many different areas, including nursing care. Understanding the inspection results can be confusing if you are not familiar with how nursing facility operate. When a nursing facility does not meet one of the more than 150 regulatory standards set forth by Congress, the inspection team issues a deficiency citation. These regulations cover extensive ground ranging from food safety, to fire safety to nursing care practices. 

Deficiencies are not all equal. They are measured in terms of scope and severity-that is, how many residents were affected, and how great the harm was on a scale of one to four. Keep in mind that most nursing facilities receive deficiencies from time to time-the important things to know are whether the deficiency was egregious, causing harm or the potential for harm to residents, and how responsive the facility was in correcting the problem.  

Medicare’s 5-Star Quality Rating System

daughter kissing smiling old man at a nursing facilityIn 2008, in response to complaints that Nursing Home Compare was too technical for most consumers, Medicare instituted the 5-Star Quality Rating System to provide an “at-a-glance” feature designed to make the inspection results easier for consumers to understand. However, critics of the 5-Star Rating System say that it leans too far in the opposite direction, oversimplifying the nuanced inspection results. 

Here is how it works. On a scale of one to five, Medicare assigns stars to represent the facility’s score across each category of inspection results. Sometimes the star ratings can be deceiving, as some deficiencies are minor and pose no risk to residents. Nevertheless, any deficiency can affect the facility’s overall star ratings. So when you use Nursing Home Compare, be sure to read the entire inspection results for the nursing homes on your shortlist. 

Visiting the Nursing Facility & Making Your Decision

Your initial research will answer a lot of questions and help you narrow your nursing facility search significantly. However, it is imperative that you visit these facilities in person before making your decision. Visiting in person will answer a lot of questions, too. But before you go, make sure you know what to look for. Read Checklist for Visiting a Senior Care Home and Long-Term Care Facilities: How to Choose the Right One for more information. 

If you are able to whittle your list down to a few choices and are still having trouble making a decision, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You might choose to make a list of pros and cons for each remaining option to move your decision forward. Talk to people whom you trust, such as family, friends, or your doctor, about your choices. Your local long-term care ombudsman is another great source for information on local nursing facilities. 

Find a Nursing Facility

Browse our comprehensive online directory to find nursing homes near you. 

Written by senior housing writer Nikki Jong.