For families seeking nursing home care for a loved one, getting information on what a nursing home is truly like or who owns it is easier said than done. Many rely on word of mouth, referrals, or recommendations. Others must depend on their gut instincts and site visits as part of their decision-making process.
Family members often find themselves playing detective or hoping for the best. Much of this is because little information has been made available to the public. However, recent events show this is changing.
New Efforts to Increase Transparency
State and federal governments recognize the lack of transparency or data available to ordinary people regarding nursing homes. Some are taking action to try to change this. In September 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will provide a way for users to search for data regarding who owns a nursing home.
Similarly, Medicare provides an online tool that allows you to find nursing homes in your area and compare them against others. States such as New York have also set up sites for visitors to compare the quality of care, quality of life, safety, preventative care practices, and inspection and complaint information of nursing home facilities.
There are limits to the data available. For example, the data on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services regarding ownership is self-reported. This means data on hundreds, if not thousands, of nursing homes is unavailable. In addition, untangling all this information and determining whether a nursing home is a good fit is not easy and may feel like a guessing game to some.
However, there is a consensus that more information must be made available to the public, and a proactive effort is underway. As the data banks grow, researchers will be able to identify facilities owned by companies with a history of poor performance within other facilities or that may have other troubles.
For example, in 2022, the Department of Justice charged the owner of the nursing home chain known as Skyline with failing to pay employment and unemployment taxes for more than 15,000 employees at 95 facilities in 11 states to the tune of a bill for $29.5 million owed to the IRS. The fallout was terrible for nursing home residents all over the U.S. who had to find new homes as staff were told there was no more money to pay them.
Hopefully, the search tools, once further developed, will allow viewers to see whether the nursing home they are considering is affiliated with troubled facilities they may have heard about.
What You Can Do Now
So, what can you do in the meantime? Checking out the above resources is an excellent first step. Another option is to look up your state’s portal for nursing home complaints. Many of these are online and have links to comparison tools and other resources.
Several public projects have also created a database of nursing home deficiencies cited by regulators and incidents of penalties, such as ProPublica’s Nursing Home Inspect.
Finally, consider seeing if the nursing home you have in mind is active in your local courts. They may frequently try to sue residents or guarantors for bills or be subject to elder abuse and malpractice complaints. Some court systems have online search systems that allow you to view the details of all filed cases online, while others may require a trip to the clerk’s office. This can be invaluable in giving you an idea of what the nursing home environment is like behind closed doors after all the paperwork is signed.
The best position to be in is to have as much information as possible. Whether it be through online searches or in-person visits, do as much research as possible. Find more answers to your nursing home questions on ElderLawAnswers.com.