The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a new nursing home rating system on its website to help make choosing a nursing home easier for senior citizens and their families.
The 5-star rating system used for all 15,800 U.S. nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid, similar to rating systems for hotels and restaurants, has some nursing home operators worried about how their business will fair with this new rating system.
The ratings are based on health inspection surveys, staffing information and quality of care measures, such as the percentage of residents with pressure sores. The nursing homes will receive stars for each of those categories as well as for their overall quality. Only 10% of nursing homes received the highest five-star rating, and 20% received just one star in the first round of ratings. Which nursing home is your parent or grandparent living in and what rating did it receive?
Now the general public can know which nursing homes got a low rating and which received the highest rating of 5, but of course there are those in the nursing home industry desperately trying to poke holes in the rating system from the get-go by saying the system is “is poorly planned, prematurely implemented and ham-handedly rolled out”.
“What you have with the five-star system is a very well-thought-out way of summarizing all of that information that was available on the earlier site with new information. This allows you to do a much more direct comparison in a user-friendly way” said Charles Phillips, a professor of health policy and management at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in College Station. “The old site had a lot of information, but the information wasn’t necessarily terribly usable by the average consumer. You knew if the facility was above or below the state average, but you didn’t know what that meant”.
Families caring for elderly parents have a weighty responsibility trying to deal with providing needed care and attention to elderly parents, and the struggle to find quality nursing home care weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of caring families. Many family members incorrectly assume good quality nursing care and they often don’t know what questions to ask when trying to choose a nursing home, and that’s where this rating system can be an important educational tool for families.
Alice H. Hedt, executive director of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, said consumers should consider the star ratings, but not solely rely on them when comparing nursing facilities. “Our initial reaction is that consumers should probably avoid any facility with a one- or two-star rating and even a three-star rating unless people they trust convince them that the rating is inaccurate or unfair,” she said. Her organization also issued a press release warning that nursing homes may appear in the ratings to give better care than they actually do.
“There are other quality-of-life issues they are very concerned about: the atmosphere, cleanliness, ratio of nursing professionals, the ability to go visit. None of that is reflected in what gives this a five-star rating”, said Debra Greenberg, a senior social worker at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
The decision to put a family member in a nursing home is very stressful and emotionally charged for many families. Anyone considering placing an elderly parent in a nursing home should talk to the local nursing home ombudsman and take the initiative to physically go and visit each nursing home facility being considered several times (unannounced) in order to get a real first-hand look inside the nursing home.
Some families are intent on taking care of elderly parents themselves, with the help of programs that offset some of the financial stress and hardships, rather than placing their mother or father in a nursing home. The decision as to whether to put mom or dad in a nursing home or not is a personal one, and the general public has the right to know as much as possible about how nursing homes are rated and why each nursing home received either low ratings or high ratings in order to make the best possible decision for their parents and family.
Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare