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Get patient care quality ratings for
16,000 nursing homes nationwide
Tips on choosing a nursing home

Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — The need to locate a suitable nursing home for a spouse, parent or relative can arise suddenly.
Here are some tips on finding, visiting and researching nursing homes.

Narrow the field

To find a nursing home:
— Seek advice from a hospital discharge planner or social worker.
— Contact the local agency on aging.
— Talk with the city or county social workers who perform Medicaid eligibility screenings.
— Use federal, state and other Internet sites to locate nursing homes and obtain basic comparisons on patient care and staffing, as well as details about violations identified during routine inspections and complaint investigations.
— Make sure the nursing home has a current state operating license, an administrator with a current state license, and certification for Medicare and Medicaid.

Visit the site

During visits, make sure the nursing home has these:
— Handrails in hallways, grab bars in bathrooms and other features aimed at accident prevention.
— Clearly marked exits and unobstructed paths to these exits.
— Bedrooms that open onto a corridor and have windows.
— Hallways wide enough to permit two wheelchairs to pass with ease, and wheelchair ramps for easy access into and out of the home.
— An activity room or designated space for residents able to be involved in reading, crafts and social activities.
— Friendly and available staff who appear pleasant, caring and accommodating to residents and visitors. They should respond quickly to call lights.
— Residents who are clean, well groomed, well fed and free from bruises.
— Clean rooms, hallways and meal tables.
— Appetizing meals. Watch a staff member feeding residents who need assistance.
— A lack of unpleasant odors.
— Explanations on why residents are in physical restraints, if they are.
— Assurances of regular medical attention, emergency care and routine drugs.

Ask questions

Quiz staff and administrators:
— Does each shift have enough help to properly care for residents?
— How long have staff and managers been employed by that nursing home, and do they enjoy their work?
— Are staff permanently assigned to residents?
— Does the same team of nurses and certified nursing assistants work with the same resident four to five days a week?
— Is a registered nurse in the home at all times?
— Does the nursing home check the background of all staff?
— How are complaints handled?
— Under what circumstances might a resident be transferred to another room or unit?
— How often are residents who need assistance helped to the bathroom, or when do they have their disposable briefs changed?
— How does the nursing home prevent and treat pressure ulcers and other skin problems?
— How does the nursing home stay away from using physical or chemical restraints?
— Do family and residents participate in meetings that decide patients’ care?
— Does the nursing home have a resident and-or a family council?
— Is transportation provided to community activities?
— Does the home have a policy that encourages residents to go outside?
— What is the emergency evacuation plan, and does the nursing home have regular fire drills?


Analysis finds clusters
of nursing home violations by state, ownership
Nursing homes with unblemished records are rare
Nursing home enforcement efforts questioned
Nursing home analysis used federal records, statistical tools
Nursing home terminology steeped in bureacracy
Resources on the Web to learn more about nursing home care

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All contents © 2003, Gannett News Service