10 Tips: Finding a nursing home

Take wise steps when choosing a nursing home

LAURA T. COFFEY, Times Correspondent
Published February 18, 2007

Who knew that so many people have to make decisions about nursing homes while under severe time constraints? These tips can help:

1 Know your rights. If a hospital tells you your loved one must be discharged within 24 hours, you have appeal rights under Medicare that can extend your relative’s stay by two days and give you time to research nursing homes. Ask the hospital for a copy of "An Important Message from Medicare," or call toll-free 1-800-633-4227.

2 Use the Eldercare Locator. It will connect you with your local agency on aging, which can give you names and locations of nursing homes. Call toll-free 1-800-677-1116

3 Do lots of clicking. Consumer Reports recently completed an investigation of nursing homes. Go to www.consumerreports.org/cro/health-fitness/nursing-home-guide/0608_nursing-home-guide.htm, and click on the map. This will lead you to Florida nursing homes to consider and avoid.

4 Tap into other resources. You can check less complete surveys of nursing homes through the Nursing Home Compare database on the Web site of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services: www.medicare.gov/nhcompare/home.asp. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has a site www.floridahealthstat. com that tracks nursing homes within the state.

5 Check state survey reports. When you visit a nursing home, ask for a copy of Form 2567, the state inspection survey. It will reveal the results of unannounced visits by state surveyors who spoke with residents and checked on conditions and care issues.

6 Contact the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Call toll-free 1-888-831-0404. The state’s Elder Helpline toll-free at 1-800-963-5337 can give you local phone numbers for services in your county. Also check out Florida’s SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program, (www.floridashine.org).

7 Make unannounced visits more than once. Visit nursing homes at different times of day. Are many residents still in bed at 10 a.m. or so? Do many eat dinner in their rooms rather than in the dining room? These all can be signs of an understaffed facility that isn’t giving its residents enough stimulation.

8 Stay alert for other details. Are toilet needs being met right away? Are there safety precautions to prevent accidents? Are exercise and rehabilitation sessions scheduled regularly? How does the staff interact with its residents?

9 Sit down with the administrator. Ask about his or her views on long-term care and find out if the home has seen a lot of high-level turnover in recent years, which could be a sign of instability.

10 Inquire about Medicaid. If your relative lives in a nursing home for a long time, his or her financial resources most likely will be exhausted and he or she will then be eligible for for Medicaid. Get in writing the nursing home’s payment policy once private money or Medicare reimbursements run out.
Sources: Consumer Reports’ Nursing Home Guide (www.consumerreports.org); Consumer Reports’ Complete Guide to Health Services for Seniors; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (www.medicare.gov/ basics/appeals.asp)

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