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How to Find the Best Nursing Homes in Northeast Ohio

If you’re concerned with the quality of life for your elderly parents, you probably have checked out Medicare.gov’s online database of nursing home ratings. Using this database, you can lookup Ohio nursing home ratings to find the best care for your loved one. While this rating system is a start to help you find the best nursing Ohio nursing home, the information it truly tells you is very limited. In order to pick the best nursing care facility, first you need to understand what nursing home rating systems don’t tell you.

Understanding the Government-Based Nursing Home Rating System

In 2009, the United States government implemented a nursing home rating system consisting of one to five stars. The government meant to help families make an essential decision about the nursing home environment for their most vulnerable, elderly family members.

The nursing home star rating system from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) quickly became a popular way for families to decide which nursing home is best for their elderly loved ones. However, a New York Times investigation discovered that The nursing home star ratings are part of a rather broken system.

Essentially, the data provided from the star rating system is easily manipulated as it relies largely on self-reported data. In addition, on-site examinations of facilities by state health inspectors remain limited as they lack the staff to visit the 15,000 facilities on the list on any regular basis. Indeed, a 15-month gap between visits is not uncommon.

Ultimately, families first need to understand what this rating system does and does not tell them before they can confidently pick the best nursing in Northeast Ohio.

What Nursing Home Ratings Are Supposed to Tell You

At their core, the information submitted to CMS is supposed to tell you how these facilities compare in three important areas:

  1. How clean and safe the nursing home facilities are.
  2. How much time nurses spend with residents.
  3. the quality of care that residents receive.

The highest score of 5 stars, then, implies that a facility provides exceptional care in a safe, clean environment. However, state inspectors’ results often find very different stories than the self-reported data suggests.

Indeed, inspectors routinely find very different results than facilities self-report.

  • Fewer staff available for resident care than facilities report.
  • Dirtier facilities than self-reported.
  • Evidence of elder abuse and neglect that facilities failed to report.

Despite finding these discrepancies, state inspectors remain hesitant to lower the star-rating these facilities have largely awarded themselves. As a result, anyone looking for the best nursing home in Northeast Ohio needs to consider far more than this unreliable rating system.

3 Tips for Choosing the Best Nursing Facility in Northeast Ohio

Inside best nursing home in Northeast Ohio shows elderly residents engaged with each other and attentive staff members.

1. Visit More Than Once

You’ll more than likely have to pre-schedule a visit. While understandable from a safety standpoint for residents, it also means the facility will get to pick a day and time that shows them in the best light. Hence, you’ll need to visit more than once and choose different days and times to visit. For instance, if the first visit is a Tuesday around lunch, call to schedule the next visit during evening hours on a weekend. This will allow you to compare how many staff members are available during different times and days.

2. Use All Your Senses when Visiting

When you take a nursing care tour, the facility’s tour guide will be very skilled at directing your attention to the best parts of the facilty: the arts and activities room, the physical therapy room, the bus trip schedule. You will want to be engaging your other senses to see beyond what they want you to see.

  • SMELL: Does the facility smell like urine in any area? Or are the cleaning chemical smells so strong you suspect everything was scrubbed just moments before your arrived?
  • SIGHT: Look at the residents’ faces and body language. Do they seem relaxed and yet engaged? Do they acknowledge visitors as you walk by? Similarly, observe the same with staff members. Do they seem busily engaged, or frantic and hurried? Do they smile at residents during interactions?
  • HEARING: Again, your tour guild will try to keep your ears focused on what they want you to hear: how often the activity bus goes out, how many fun activities a week residents can choose from. This information during a tour is useless. It’s information you should easily access in their brochure or off their website. Instead, listen to more useful information like what tone of voice can you overhear residents and staff using? Is your tour guide eager to answer questions or get you more information, or do they steer the conversation back to their safe script? Do you hear residents interacting in positive ways with each other? These observations should tell you something about the level of happiness and comfort in their surroundings both residents and staff experience.
  • TASTE: Ask if you can buy one of the lunches to enjoy yourself while you’re there. If they won’t let you, then ask them about their food sources and food prep. Is everything coming in pre-made and frozen or are they cooking fresh meals? Who is in charge of menus? A cook, a nutritionist, or a combination of both? What measures do they have in place for residents who don’t like a particular meal one day? Do residents have any pre-choice from menus each night?

3. Ask smart questions.

It’s easy to get fooled by the glossy marketing brochures and the 5-star rating. You’ll need to get comfortable asking questions that the facility may not want to answer–or at least ones that make them aware you’re doing your due dilligence. Some suggested questions include:

  • Staffing: What are your average full-time staff member numbers? How long as the average staffer been with your facility? What are your turnover rates like? What pre-screening measures do you have in place before hiring a new staff member?
  • Visitation: Are visitation hours limited to specific days and times? Are there exceptions for special occasions or family events? How are visitors screened for safety of all residents? What if an unfamiliar person tries to visit my loved one? What if my loved one asks a visitor to leave?
  • Accountability: How do you assure that staffers are providing the level of care expected? What process is in place to report a concern? When was the last time a state inspector had a surprise visit here? How did their findings compare to your self-reported data?
  • Budget: What percentage of patients on average are on Medicaid? When was the last time you raised private rates, and what percentage was that increase?
  • Facility: What are the most recent upgrades you’re proud of? What upgrades or improvements are planned in the near future? How many janitorial staff do you employ? What training do they have for infectious disease control?
  • Residents: What processes do you have in place to help manage resident conflicts and/or disputes? How do you help reluctant residents participate and/or acclimate? What voice do residents have in the types of activities and/or day trips offered?

While this list is not an exhaustive one, it hopefully gets you thinking about issues that will truly impact your loved-one’s day-to-day comfort and happiness in a nursing home in Ohio. Remember, YOU are the customer. You have a right to ask questions before you decide to buy their services. Don’t let them intimidate you or refer you to their glossy marketing materials. Make it known you’re interested in getting a true feel of the facility to make sure its the best nursing home fit for your loved one.

Choosing the Best Nursing Homes in Northeast Ohio Takes Work

No perfect nursing home exists. After all, almost all of them are struggling to keep staffing numbers at ideal levels and budgets are often spread thin. You can choose better, though, by following our 3 tips for choosing a nursing home facility, rather than just relying on the inaccurate star rating system.

Elder Fighters LLC provides services and information to help our elderly family members plan for their best future and protect their family wealth through Certified Medicaid Planning. Worried about losing your home to Medicaid? Read How to Protect Your Home from Medicaid.

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