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In 1987 a federal law (OBRA) was passed to improve the quality of care in nursing homes and prevent neglect and abuse of residents, particularly frail senior citizens. According to Consumer Reports bad care persists and it’s still difficult to find good nursing homes two decades later.
Choosing a humane, well-run nursing home can be one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make. It can also be a decision that must be made under time contstraints. This is especially true where a hospital says your relative must be out in 24 hours. While the hospital will often suggest a particular nursing home in the area, your family may not know whether the nursing home is a good one or provides high quality care.
You can’t just rely on federal or state websites to assure you make the right choice. Making the right choice of a nursing home for a loved one requires far more diligence than relying upon governmental agencies which are often understaffed and misinformed by industry professionals operating these facilities. Long term care facilities are sophisticated big businesses skilled at skirting federal and state requirements and competent at clouding government quality care inspectors’ prying eyes.
Instead, family members must follow more aggressive steps in selecting the right nursing home:
Identify area facilities. This can be done by searching your state’s website information, such as the Florida Nursing Home Guide found at the Agency for Health Care Administration Website in Florida. Or, you can contact your local council on aging for a list of nursing homes. Consumer Reports also suggests you consult their Nursing Home Quailty Monitor to help you cross potentially bad homes off your list.
Visit the homes. Make unannounced visits. Watch, listen, and smell. Visit randomly at different times of the day and night and observe whether the facility has adequate staff to care for the residents, whether the staff are responsive to residents’ needs, etc.
Read Facility’s Inspection Reports. Ask for and read the home’s Form 2567, the facility’s state inspection survey, which should be “readily accessible.” If you have difficulty obtaining the survery, that’s a warning that the facility may be hiding damaging information. A lengthy survey with numerous violations also indicates problems.
Meet the Administration. Meet with the facility’s administrator and director of nursing. Get a feel for their philosophy of caring for residents and whether they are compassionate professionals. Ask how long they’ve been employed at the nursing home and about the level of staff turnover.