PART IV: SOURCES AVAILABLE TO ASSIST IN SELECTING A NURSING HOME
By: William L. Bross
From our previous installments, it is painfully obvious to see that the selection of a nursing home is a difficult and important decision one must consider. To make such a choice, one needs to evaluate and investigate all nursing homes in consideration prior to choosing a residence for himself or a loved one. One needs to evaluate and do a background check of a nursing home as one would a potential baby-sitter or physician. There are various ways to accomplish this task. Word of mouth is one way. Ask friends and neighbors about the facilities you are considering. Do they know anyone there? Where do they have relatives in nursing homes? This is a good way to get feedback but one should take additional steps in order to assure the safety and well-being of a resident. A telephone call to the secretary of state can be a useful tool to check on past state surveys of a particular nursing home or the status of the last state audit at that home. In addition, the internet can provide you with a tremendous amount of background information about the nursing home industry generally, as well as specific information about medical issues concerning the aging.
Check with your area Long-Term Care Ombudsman in the area http://www.aoa.gov/aoa_programs/elder_rights/Ombudsman/index.aspx. This person has working knowledge of the good and bad points of the facilities in your area. This person should be able to answer questions you might have about previous inspections of those facilities and inform you of any complaints filed.
The United States Administration on Aging-Department of Health and Human Services web site, http://www.aoa.gov/, is a good basic web site to obtain general information regarding national and state long-term care organizations and associations. This web site provides links to such organizations as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations. The Joint Commission web site even provides a form on which to make complaints about health care organizations. It also provides access to the Commission’s monthly newsletter in which quality and accreditation issues are discussed and reviewed.
Other sites such as The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, http://www.theconsumervoice.org/default.cfm, are devoted to “consumers and advocates who define and achieve quality for people with long-term care needs.” This organization offers publications, books, and links to State Ombudsmen and citizen advocacy groups. An additional useful site is published by the United States government is http://www.medicare.gov/nursing/overview.asp. This toll allows you to search for certified nursing homes by geographic location and gives you details on each, including survey results.
By utilizing these tools you will be able to determine whether any abuse and/or neglect has taken place at the facilities that you might be considering. Be advised, the amount of research that you put into learning about a nursing home can potentially save the life and/or the quality of life of the ones you love the most. A lawsuit after the fact is many times the only recourse one has after abuse or neglect takes place. Try to avoid this by exercising a little due diligence prior to choosing a nursing home facility. However, if a lawsuit is the only remedy available, be sure to find a lawyer that handles nursing home cases. This is especially important in light of the numerous rules and regulations in the nursing home industry, as discussed previously. We hope that this information will be helpful to you in selecting the best nursing home available for yourself or a loved one.