One the most difficult decisions family members have to make is choosing a nursing home to place a loved one. John F. Kennedy said once that the strength and durability of a society can be judged by how it treats its elderly. From the cases my firm has investigated, we are not treating our elderly very well.
In general, we find that not-for-profit homes deliver better care than for-profit ones, and independently run homes provide better care than chains. Data from the United States General Accounting Office shows that as of 2002, there were 1.7 million people living in 17,000 nursing homesin the United States. Two-thirds of these patient’s bills were paid through Medicaid and Medicare an amount of about $42 billion in 2002. In NewMexico in 2002, over 80% of the nursing homes violated federal health and safety standards during state inspection. What is disturbing is that most of the “surprise” inspections were expected.
The following are some of the steps families can take when looking for a nursing home for a loved one:
- Read the Nursing Home Quality Monitor for homes to avoid and homes to consider. Start with the well performing homes that are near where you or your loved one live.
- Remember that nursing homes change ownership frequently and that a poor-performing home can become a good one (or vice versa) within a matter of months.
- Independent, nonprofit homes are generally the best place to start, but there are chains that rank in the middle of the pack that also provide good care.
- Read each home’s Form 2567, the state’s inspection survey of the facility. These surveys are public documents which you can obtain from theNew Mexico Department of Health. If the home won’t make it available to you, be worried that there is something to hide.
- Make several unannounced visits to the facility. Danger signs would be seeing a lot of residents sleeping in the middle of the morning when you would want to see them up and about; substandard food at meals; or no snacks.
Denise M. Torres can be contacted at 505-526-3333 or via e-mail at DMT@zianet.com.