By Brian O’Connell, Analyst, insuranceQuotes.com
Finding the right nursing home for an elderly family member is a serious responsibility, and often a daunting task. But many Americans aren’t aware of the tools that the federal government provides to make the search smoother and more trustworthy.
The U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services rolled out its new Five-Star Quality Rating System in April, with the goal to help families compare local nursing homes and get key questions answered.
The CMS’s website rates nursing homes on a scale of one to five stars, taking into consideration three key areas: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures.
Health inspections. The CMS sends in its own inspectors to rank nursing homes for health inspection criteria, with special focus on minimum quality requirements. The actual five-star rating system covers the three most recent CMS nursing home inspections. More emphasis is on the most recent senior care investigations, but the agency does factor in prior years ratings, as well.
Staffing levels. CMS investigators also look at the number of hours nursing home health professionals are in the senior care facility and on the clock. A key factor in the “hours on staff” determination is the estimated need nursing home residents have for nurses and staffers. The higher the need for good medical care professionals the more hours a nursing home must have for staffing needs.
Quality measures. Quality is measured by CMS investigators in 17 key areas, mainly focusing on the actual physical and clinical needs of nursing home residents. For example, a CMS investigation team will likely focus on occupational and/or speech therapy for residents recovering from an injury or an illness. Or, a rating model will focus both on nursing home residents who are receiving short-term rehab sessions and on residents who need more regular, longer-care attention, as they’re less likely to live on their own independently.
The CMS system is a valuable tool for just about every nursing home shopper. The ability to compare different options based on reliable and standardized criteria can help save time and avoid unexpected surprises. But it’s not the only tool at your disposal. Once you have vetted your options with this system, make sure that you consider other important factors, including the cleanliness during your visit, the range of activities offered, and most importantly the elderly person’s preferences.
For more details about the CMS and additional criteria to look out for when choosing a nursing home, see my article at insuranceQuotes.com.