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Nursing Home Quality Ratings Updated

February 15th, 2012

The U.S. government’s 5-Star ratings of the nations nursing homes are in!

While these results are not as glamorous as the Oscars or the Grammys… okay, they are not glamorous at all, but they are significantly more meaningful than entertainment awards, and they affect more of us much more directly. Currently, about 7.5% of Americans currently live in nursing homes. With the current trends in costs of care, health concerns, and the number of aging Baby Boomers, it has been estimated that about 11 million people will be likely to require assistance in old age within the next 10 to 20 years. That makes it essential that we understand what makes a “good” nursing home or a “bad” nursing home, and how to find the good ones.

Every year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publish the results of their 5-Star Quality Ratings of nursing homes. The Five-Star Quality Rating System was created to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily, and help identify areas about which you may want to ask questions. Nursing home ratings are taken from three sources of data:

  • Health Inspections. Onsite visits by a team of trained inspectors who check on the quality of care, inspect medical records, and talk with residents about their care. Inspectors also make sure that the nursing home meets federal quality processes.
  • Staffing. This rating looks at the overall number of staff compared to the number of residents…as well as how many of the staff are trained nurses.
  • Quality Measures. This measure rates how well a nursing home performs on 10 important aspects of care, such as how well the nursing home prevents and treats skin ulcers, and how well residents are helped in eating and dressing. While this sounds like a valuable measure, the data for Quality Measures are self-reported by the nursing home staff. This makes it the least objective measure, and the most likely to be inappropriately high.

Each of these areas is individually rated, and then these three ratings are combined to calculate an Overall Rating.

The lowest overall rating is awarded to homes “much below average” compared with others in their state, according to CMS. Among problems that can drop a rating: consistently dirty equipment and linens, mistreatment and unlicensed caregivers or specialists.

How to Choose a Good Nursing Home

USA TODAY Analyzes Ratings

The CMS Nursing Home Compare data only list the most recent star ratings, but it doesn’t provide a history for consumers. Now, USA TODAY prices an analysis of the ratings for more than 15,000 nursing homes over the past 3 years. Among their findings:

  • Quality improved. There was a 5% decrease in the number of nursing homes with 1- or 2-star ratings; and there was a 5% increase in the number of 4- and 5-star rated facilities.
  • Some of the worst stay bad. 564 nursing homes received 1-star ratings in each of the rating periods during the past three years.
  • Two-thirds of these low-performing facilities are for-profit organizations.

Here’s how to see specific nursing home ratings from the past three years:

  • Go to the USA TODAY ratings page here:  USA TODAY Nursing Home Ratings
  • On the upper right corner of the chart at the top of the page, enter the state you would like to search.
  • On the lower right side of the chart, you can narrow your search by entering a specific term, which can include a city name, part of the name of the nursing home, a street name, etc.
  • To see a comparison of all three years’ ratings, click the “+” sign to the left of the nursing home name and address.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

USA TODAY article: Fewer seniors live in nursing homes

To see the full reports AND to search for specific nursing homes by name or location, see the Nursing Home Compare page here: Nursing Home Compare

To see the HensonFuerst video about how to choose a good nursing home, click here: How to Choose a Good Nursing Home (and Avoid the Bad Ones)