Choosing a nursing home or specialized care facility is an important decision that can significantly affect the quality of life of a potential resident and their family. Medicare has a ratings system that aims to provide the public with information about how to choose between nursing homes. However, this rating system has its flaws and should, at most, only be one factor in choosing a nursing home.

The Medicare ratings system rates any given facility on a scale from the lowest rating of one star to the highest rating of five stars. The ratings focus on three main areas: health inspections, quality measures, and staffing ratio. The biggest inherent flaw in the ratings is that the quality measures and staffing ratio factors rely on self-reported data. There was widespread perception that some facilities were gaming the system to artificially improve their star ratings. While some changes were made recently to better verify the self-reported data, some elder care advocates still believe that is still leeway in the system for facilities to manipulate the data.

Regardless of whether or not the ratings are valuable, the ratings should only be a minor factor to consider when choosing a care facility. Nursing homes are not one-size-fits-all institutions whose functions can be reduced to a simple rating. Different care facilities cater to vastly different needs. Certain facilities specifically care for individuals with particular conditions. Other facilities provide activities for seniors with active lifestyles. Certain homes cater to people in a particular religious faith. These are just some of the many types of care facilities that exist.

Elder law attorneys, and other care advocates, can also provide insights into what reputable care facilities are available in a certain area.

The choice of a care facility should not be made lightly. Individuals and their families should ideally take the time for in depth visits to multiple homes to find the place that best fits their needs.

To discuss planning for a potential nursing home stay please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.