3.3 million Americans move into a nursing home each year. One in seven Americans age 65 and older will spend time in one of the nation’s 16,000 nursing homes this year and for those 85 and older, the chances are more than one in five. Finding one that provides quality care is a challenge. Best Nursing Homes highlights meaningful data, like what proportion of residents have bedsores or are in pain. Be leery of nursing homes that the government has labeled Special Focus Facilities. In Best Nursing Homes, facilities in this category are flagged with an icon that indicates they’ve been singled out by the state where they operate and by CMS as nursing homes with long histories of subpar or inconsistent health inspections.
The U.S. News rankings are built on data from Nursing Home Compare, a consumer web site run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS sets and enforces standards for all nursing homes enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. The data for Nursing Home Compare come from regular health inspections carried out by state agencies and from the homes themselves. Based onthat information, CMS assigns an overall ratings of one to five stars to all nursing homes other than a few too new for meaningful data to be available. Homes are also given one to five stars in how well they do in the health inspections, in providing enough nurses, and providing a high level of quality of care.
At Nursing Home Compare, you can search for a specific home or for all homes in a particular state or within a certain distance of your city or ZIP code.
Here are more details about the CMS standards that determine a home’s rating:
Because almost all nursing homes accept Medicare or Medicaid residents, they are regulated by the federal government as well as by the states in which they operate. State survey teams conduct health inspections on behalf of CMS about every 12 to 15 months. Besides such matters as safety of food preparation and adequacy of infection control, the list covers such issues as medication management, residents’ rights and quality of life, and proper skin care. A home’s rating is based on the number of deficiencies, their seriousness, and their scope, meaning the relative number of residents who were or could have been affected. Deficiencies are counted that were identified during the three most recent health inspections and in investigations of public complaints in that time frame.
Even first-rate nursing care falls short if there isn’t enough of it because of too few nurses who can spend time with residents, so CMS determines average nursing time per patient per day. Homes report the average number of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, and certified nurse aides who were on the payroll during the two weeks prior to the most recent health inspection and their number of hours worked. The information is compared with the average number of residents during the same period and crunched to determine the average number of minutes of nursing time residents got per day. To receive five stars in the latest CMS ratings, nurses and aides had to provide slightly more than four hours of care a day to each resident, including 33 minutes from registered nurses. The time provided by each home is shown in the rankings.
CMS requires nursing homes have to submit clinical data for the most recent three quarters detailing the status of each individual Medicare and Medicaid resident in 19 indicators, such as the percentage of residents who had urinary tract infections or who were physically restrained to keep from falling from a bed or a chair.