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Using Online Ratings to Choose a Nursing Home

Making the decision to transition a parent from home to a nursing home can be one of the most heart wrenching things an adult child ever has to do. How do you select the proper facility and ensure that your mom or dad will be safe and well cared for?

It may seem impossible at first to find honest and transparent feedback on the quality of care provided by nursing homes, otherwise known as skilled nursing facilities. With a little detective work, however, you can uncover information on the opinions and experiences of others whose loved ones have lived in the nursing home that you may be considering.  Just as you want to know what someone thinks of a restaurant before you try it, social proof shared from consumers, matters more than anything.

If you’re not familiar with Yelp, it’s a business directory and review forum. A search for nursing homes in a city or state, will reveal several reviews for available listings. You can read comments people have made and see the average number of stars out of five. People will often remark on the staff, their attitudes, responsiveness to concerns, and level of kindness. You may read that ‘staff went above and beyond the call of duty’ or that ‘my mom was treated with love, kindness and respect’ which help to instill trust and confidence in the minds of prospective families and clients. Conversely, opinions or views such as ‘do not place anyone here’ or ‘overall service is unacceptable’ can send people running in the opposite direction.

Yelp has come under fire for the reliability of the reviews, with the company being accused of showing more negative reviews for businesses who choose not to use paid advertising features on the platform. Nonetheless, reviews from family members or residents themselves on what it’s like to live there can provide insightful information that would otherwise be difficult to glean.

Another important rating system is Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare. It measures facilities annually and gives star ratings based on data from the federal government’s health inspection database; a national database of resident clinical data and Medicare claims data. Some of the data is self-reported by the nursing home which is considered problematic by critics. Another flaw is that the rating doesn’t include any subjective data from the end users of the facility.

Yelp and Medicare Nursing Home Compare are two types of ratings that you can check out and as you can see, they’re very different. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find any correlation between the two; anyone can say whatever they like about a facility on Yelp whereas Medicare ratings are based on inspections and reports on staffing and quality measures.

What else can you do to evaluate a facility? In addition to conducting online research, don’t discount the value of visiting the nursing home in person and asking questions. Take a close look around and most importantly, pay attention to the staff and residents. Are residents engaged in activities? Do staff appear happy and interested in their roles? How do the administrators respond to your questions? Do your homework in advance and you’ll increase your odds of finding the best nursing home for your parent.

Need more guidance? Takacs McGinnis may be able to help. Just give us a call.


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