How to sort through nursing home information

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There are few harder decisions than deciding where to place a loved one in need of nursing home care. 

When making your choice, there are numerous resources that provide information about homes. But knowing where to go and how to navigate all the data can be a challenge. 

“A start is medicare.gov and going to the ‘Nursing Home Compare’ segment of that website,” said Kaye Scholle, a Michigan long-term care ombudsman.

The government inspects nursing homes and assigns ratings of up to five stars. While a five-star restaurant or hotel is ranked as exceptional, a Medicare five-star means only that the facility is meeting the most basic standards. 

“That system is set up for the minimal standards of care,” Scholle said. 

Star ratings consider the standards of care including staffing, health inspections and violations. 

The site also has information about investigations at each home and whether there have been any substantiated complaints. That includes narratives from anonymous sources about specific events and how the home addressed them. However, the information is often outdated and can be difficult to decipher. 

“It’s not user-friendly, necessarily, it’s not consumer-friendly at times,” Scholle said.

It is also important to remember to differentiate between skilled nursing homes and adult care facilities. 

“You have close to 1,000 pages of regulations in a skilled nursing situation,” Scholle said. “For the AFCs, the adult foster cares, homes for the aged, their regulations are about 20 pages.”
 
She said the government site should only be a starting point. 

“Certainly to use that as a reference, but also to do additional investigation, visits, conversations,” she said.

She advised starting with the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan to determine if your loved one needs a nursing home or adult care. 

There are also agencies that will help you find a home. Some are associated with nursing homes or get a commission, but they can still be useful. 

“To have at least have somebody there that can help guide you to what’s appropriate and what you can afford and that also know the facilities, I think there’s value to that,” she said. 

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