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How to Compare Nursing Homes: Choosing the Best Nursing Home on Medicare

Posted on August 31, 2021 by Kyle Walton

Why does choosing the ideal nursing home matter?

Getting older is just a fact of life. Sometimes, the challenges that come with natural aging can become too much for any one person to endure alone. That’s why there’s no shame in deciding to move yourself or a loved one into a nursing home.

That said, nursing homes are by no means identical. Like any other business, the quality of service, nursing home costs, and your level of comfortability can vary dramatically from location to location.

You may be surprised to learn that some nursing homes, even those that appear to be extremely high-quality at first glance, may be suffering from a lack of funding, a lack of qualified staff, or even basic negligence, all of which may affect their ability to meet even the most basic standards of care.

For this reason, choosing the perfect assisted living facility for you or your loved one requires careful, in-depth research. Courtesy of MedicareInsurance.com, here is a basic guide on how to compare nursing homes in your area.

What are the key things I should do when researching nursing homes?

Before making any kind of decision on the nursing home, retirement community, or assisted living facility you decide to move into, there are a few key things you should do. 

Keep in mind that comparing nursing homes is a lengthy process — and that’s ok. Remember, you are choosing the community that you or your loved one will spend their golden years as a part of; there’s no reason not to take your time.

Start your search as early as possible.

When it comes to nursing home research, there really is no such thing as too early. If you or your loved one has recently been diagnosed with a condition or disability that requires long-term care, this is not the time to be scrambling for assisted living options.

Getting older is different for everyone, but generally speaking, it’s very common for seniors to struggle with living on their own once they age into their 70s or 80s. Waiting until the last minute is never a good idea. Attempting to maintain your own life while carrying the responsibility of caring for a loved one is stressful and time-consuming. For this reason, starting your nursing home search early can prevent your decision from being rushed.

Even if you shudder at the thought of placing yourself or your loved one in a nursing home, there is no harm in doing a little healthy research in your free time. You never know when illness or serious injury may strike unexpectedly, and it is always best to be prepared.

Choose a specific area and stick with it.

One of the many factors that goes into long-term satisfaction with your nursing home facility of choice is its location. For example, you may wish to stay close to your current location, move closer to family and friends, or move to a location with a more accommodating climate.

The truth is, there is a plethora of competing assisted living facilities out there, and narrowing your search typically begins with location. Determine which of the above factors is most important to you, and then begin to compare nursing homes in that area.

Once you’ve decided on a location, compile a list of all the nursing homes in the area, and begin narrowing them down based on personal preference and reputation.

Spend time comparing reviews and star ratings.

Speaking of comparing nursing home reputation, what’s the best way to go about doing so? Well for one, nursing home ratings are a quick and easy way to get a basic idea of a location’s reputation. Generally, communities are rated on a 5-star scale, with 1-star being extremely low-quality, and 5-stars being extremely high-quality.

However, simply glancing at a star rating doesn’t always give you a great deal of detailed insight into the kind of care and service you can expect to receive at a given facility. That’s where reviews come in.

Usually accompanying star ratings, nursing home reviews are usually written by someone who has had a first-hand experience with the location in question — be it an especially positive one, or an especially negative one.

These reviews provide anecdotal-yet-specific evidence about the quality of care and service you may expect to receive from the nursing home you are researching. This way, you can consult public opinion and gain additional insight about key details, such as staff friendliness, facility cleanliness, meal quality, and available amenities.

Look for any potential violations on record.

Although public reviews can be incredibly helpful, there is a chance that they may contain bias based on personal vendettas. Luckily, there are additional options for reviewing the quality of nursing homes beyond personal experience.

Like any other healthcare facility, nursing homes must follow strict government guidelines in order to stay in operation, therefore ensuring that they at least meet regulation standards. 

Assisted living facilities are routinely inspected by government officials who check for everything from friendliness, to safety, to health and cleanliness. If a nursing home fails to meet regulation criteria in any of these areas, their violations are made public for all to see.

Specific violations, reviews, and star rating can be easily found online, using great tools like Nursing Home Reviews.

Explore the facility’s website or give them a call.

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential communities, you can begin contacting your favorites online or by phone to get an even more comprehensive understanding. During your chat or call, you will want to make sure you are comfortable with the way you are being treated and that you are getting clear, detailed answers to any questions or concerns you may have.

You should also use this time to review available amenities, facility size, and floor plan options if possible. If you have a specific medical condition you are concerned about receiving the proper care for, this is the time to voice that concern as well.

If possible, you can also take a minute to confirm pricing. While many factors determine the cost of nursing home care, getting a general idea of the out-of-pocket expenses you can expect is always a good idea.

Schedule an in-person visit.

One of the final steps you should take before deciding to move into a nursing home is to schedule an in-person visit to your facility (or facilities) of choice. 

A general rule of thumb is to narrow your search down to two or three options, and then visit those locations in person to get a better feel for the community. This way, if you cannot get into your first choice of residence, you will have a back-up option or two ready to go.

Visiting in person gives you the opportunity to interact directly with staff and other residents and have your questions answered live and in-person. In turn, this can help you feel more comfortable with your decision all the way up until moving day.

Medicare and nursing homes: What’s the relationship?

One question that is incredibly common among those who are considering moving into a nursing home is, “does Medicare cover nursing homes?” Unfortunately, the simple answer to this question is no. Medicare is not required to fully cover the costs associated with long-term nursing home care.

That said, there are various parts of Medicare that may be able to help you or your loved one cover the costs associated with assisted living. Typically, this depends on the specific aspects of skilled nursing care you wish to receive and your exact plan benefits.

Even if the long-term care you may require isn’t covered in full, you can still benefit from reduced costs for certain services, medications, and treatments. Click here to learn about this possibility in more detail.

How will I know when it’s time to make my final decision?

Once all the research is done, nursing homes have been visited, and the dust has settled, it is time to make your final decision on your future community. 

As stated, transitioning into nursing home living can be a lengthy and stressful process, but as long as you’ve taken the proper steps to choosing your ideal home, your transition will be much easier.

If you feel that now is the time to begin your search for the ideal nursing home, assisted living facility, or retirement community, don’t hesitate. There are always great people out there who are willing to help you through the process.

About the Author

Kyle Walton

Kyle is a professional writer with several years of experience helping to inform the public on many diverse topics and industries, including healthcare. He is a Kutztown University graduate, Class of 2017.

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