Many people have no idea how to select a nursing home. Unfortunately, this decision is typically made under stressful circumstances without advanced planning. Often, the choice must be made in a short period of time. As a result, this important decision is many times made with little to no information. There are, however, some resources available and asking the right questions can help avoid a dangerous facility.
More and more information about nursing homes is available to the public. A good place to start is the Medicare Nursing Home Compare website: https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html? Here you can find the nursing homes are in a given area and how they fared in their last inspection. They will also have a one to five star rating system for an overall rating and three sub-categories. One star is the worst and five stars is the best. While the system is not perfect (there are ways to “game the system”) it is a good place to start.
Many pro-consumer organizations make getting nursing home information easy to get as well. Every nursing home will have an annual inspection report, and a report if there were complaints. Many past inspection reports can be found at the Propublica Nursing Home Inspect website: https://projects.propublica.org/nursing-homes/
Once you select homes to visit, asking the right questions is key. To begin, all nursing homes will have an Administrator and Director of Nursing. The Administrator is the top person in the facility, and the Director of Nursing is the person responsible for the nursing department. Ask how many Administrators and Directors of Nursing there have been in the last three years. Lots of turnover in these two positions can be indicative of a struggling facility.
Next, if you found lots of reported deficiencies or something troubling in past inspections at the Nursing Home Compare or Propublica websites, ask about the problem and find out how they responded. Ask how they can be sure it won’t happen to your loved one.
Next, you want to ask about staffing levels. Good staffing is the key to all good facilities. This is especially true with nurse aides, because they are the ones with the most hands one care responsibilities. In New Jersey and other states, there is a minimum number of nurse hours per resident. Ask if the facility just shoots for the minimum number or they look to exceed the state minimum.
If a facility exceeds the minimum or there is no minimum in your state, next ask what are the ratios of aides to residents for each shift. Most facilities run three shifts, 7-3, 3-11, and 11-7. Knowing how many residents each aide will be caring for is important, because any aide with too much to do will make mistakes and not get basic things done.
Lastly, I always recommend taking an unaccompanied tour and speaking to staff and residents and families. Some substandard facilities have a particular part of the facility they show families, and then when mom or dad gets to the building she is in a totally different part of the building where there is less staffing or the facilities are poor. Similarly, speaking directly with staff that will be caring for your loved one, as well as residents and their families about their experience there can help avoid the pitfall of a substandard facility. Families, and many times staff, will be candid. If a facility won’t let you walk around and talk with people, there is probably a reason.
Having basic information and asking the right questions will make you a good advocate for your loved one. For more information, call our nursing home abuse lawyers in New Jersey at Davis & Brusca at 609-786-2540 or contact us online.