Choosing a nursing home requires you to do your homework

Published Jan 13, 2018 at 4:00pm

Anyone who has ever had to choose a nursing home for a loved one knows it can be a daunting process.

Is it clean? Does it seem to have enough nursing staff? Does it take Medicaid? Does it provide plenty of activities for the residents?

Now comes a new tool that will help make the decision process a little easier: staffing levels based on payroll or other auditable data. The new data are available at https://data.cms.gov .

“Staffing is key to the quality of care and safety provided by a nursing home,” said Richard Mollot of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, nonprofit organization bases in New York City.

He recommended that people only consider nursing homes that provide more than 4.2 hours of care from staff per day.

Families should also look at how many hours of registered nurse care is provided per patient per day.

“RNs have the most training in terms of being able to provide an assessment of a resident’s condition and to provide clinical care,” he said. “Some nursing homes hire more LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and less RNs because it is cheaper to do so.”

Mollot said he would personally look for a nursing home with registered nurse staffing of 0.75 hours per resident per day, in addition to overall average staffing of 4.2-plus hours per day.

While staffing levels are important, families usually weigh other factors as well, such as its proximity to family members and the facility’s rating on Nursing Home Compare at Medicare.com.

“I would choose a facility with at least three stars if possible,” Mollot said.

With some 1.4 million people living in U.S. nursing homes, quality is an ongoing concern. The number of nursing home residents is expected to grow in coming years as more people live into their 80s and 90s.

So before you place a loved one in a nursing home, make sure you do your homework.