Nursing Homes: Business As Usual

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Two decades after the passage of a federal law to clean up the nation's nursing homes, bad care persists and good homes are still hard to find, Consumer Reports finds in a Commonwealth Fund-supported investigative report published in the September issue of the magazine. State agencies responsible for overseeing nursing home care have often failed to correct problems. For its investigative report, "Nursing Homes: Business As Usual," Consumer Reports analyzed the three most recent state inspection reports for some 16,000 nursing homes across the U.S. and examined staffing levels and quality indicators, such as how many residents develop pressure sores when they have no risk factors for them. The report is available free on the Consumer Reports Web site as part of its "Nursing Home Guide." This resource features a state-by-state database of homes to avoid and homes to consider, called the Nursing Home Quality Monitor. The report also helps consumers increase the odds of choosing a good nursing home with step-by-step shopping advice. For example, Consumer Reports's analysis found that not-for-profit homes generally provide better care than for-profit homes, and that independently run nursing homes appear to provide better care than those that are owned by chains. Other Consumer Reports recommendations for families searching for a nursing home for their loved one include:

  • Don't depend on the federal nursing home Web site, Nursing Home Compare at www.medicare.gov. A comparison with Consumer Reports findings show it may provide an incomplete and possibly misleading picture of any home that you have under consideration.
  • Visit the homes. Once you've narrowed your search, make unannounced visits at different times of the day.
  • Read each home's Form 2567. That is the facility's state inspection survey, which should be "readily accessible." If it's not and you have difficulty obtaining it, consider that a warning that the facility may be hiding damaging information.

Nursing Homes: Business as Usual, Consumer Reports, September 2006

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