How To Find a Good Nursing Home

Poor-quality nursing home care is still too common in the United Stats, but there are ways to avoid it, says Consumer Reports.

The magazine's September issue includes Consumer Reports' analysis of 16,000 U.S. nursing homes.

"We ended up classifying 4% of the homes in the country as homes to consider, and 3% of homes in the country as homes to avoid," says Charles Phillips, PhD, MPH.

Phillips directs the Health Services Research Program at Texas A&M Health Science Center. He worked with Consumer Reports on the nursing home project.

"Our data is really a starting point for families when they begin to look for a nursing home," says Trudy Lieberman, who wrote the magazine article.

Lieberman directs the Center for Consumer Health Choices at Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports.

Lieberman and Phillips discussed the article in a media teleconference.

Tips For Finding Good Nursing Home Care

Consumer Reports suggests these steps for people looking for a nursing home:

  • Get the names of local facilities Call Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116) to find your local agency on aging.

  • Check Consumer Reports Nursing Home Quality Monitor which has state-by-state findings, at www.consumerreports.org/nursinghomes.

  • Check on ownership Independent nonprofit facilities may be better than for-profit chains, according to Consumer Reports.

  • Check with your local long-term care ombudsman This government official can be found through your local agency on aging. He or she should know about local nursing homes.

  • Don't rely on the federal Web site Nursing home information at www.medicare.gov may be "incomplete and possibly misleading," says Consumer Reports.

  • Visit homes several times

  • Read each home's Form 2567 That's the facility's state inspection survey.

  • Check on the staff Talk to the home's administrator and ask about top-level staff turnover.

    Nursing Home Visits

    Consumer Reports has specific suggestions for nursing home visits.

    First, make unannounced visits. Go at different times of day.

    If you go in the morning — say, around 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m. — see how many people are still in bed. "Homes with too few staff members don't get people out of bed until late in the day, if at all," says the magazine.

    If you go around dinnertime, check out the dining hall.

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