The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently implemented a new “5-Star Quality Rating System” for nursing homes. This rating system is an invaluable tool for family members seeking to place loved ones in nursing homes. The system was created to help consumers compare nursing homes more easily and identify areas about which consumers may want to ask questions. The nursing home ratings are taken from three sources: health inspections, staffing numbers and quality measures. CMS provides a star rating for each of these three sources. Finally, the three ratings are combined to calculate an overall “star rating.” This information provides a good picture of the care individual nursing homes are providing.
As we have seen from many cases we have handled, the level of staffing is a key indicator of the quality of care provided in a nursing home. The staffing data in this new system looks at “overall staffing” and staffing “adjusted for the population.” The overall staffing assesses the overall number of staff compared to the number of residents. The “adjusted for the population” staffing information is a key element of the new system. This aspect of the staffing rating takes into consideration differences in how sick the residents are in each nursing home. Obviously, sicker residents require more care. If more care is required, more staffing will of course be needed. In other words, two different nursing homes with the same number of residents may require different staffing based on the level of care required by the individual residents. We have found that this factor is seldom considered by nursing home owners when providing staffing for facilities. Most nursing homes provide a set ratio of staff regardless of the needs of the residents.
As would be expected, CMS has found that the quality of care is generally better in nursing homes that have more staff to work directly with the residents. In choosing a nursing home it is extremely important to ask the management about staffing levels, qualifications of the staff, and to personally observe the number of staff in the facility. In conjunction with the new 5-Star Rating System, CMS has updated its website to provide a broader picture of these quality indicators. The website (www.medicare.gov/NH/compare.com) provides the 5-star rating for nursing homes. I would highly recommend that any family considering placing a resident in a nursing home review this information in addition to visiting the nursing home personally prior to admitting a loved one.
Source: Associated Press
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