What to look for in choosing rehab care
After a stay in the hospital, most people would prefer to go home to recuperate. But that may not always be possible.
If you or a loved one needs more medical care, rehabilitation or supervision, you’ll have to find a nursing home or skilled nursing facility before the patient is discharged from the hospital.
But what should you look for, and who is a good source of impartial information?
Nursing homes are a business with marketing personnel whose job is to sell you on the place. But you need more than glossy brochures and vague promises to go on.
Nursing homes often specialize in areas of care, like stroke recovery or long-term ventilator support. Ask the hospitalist assigned to your case and your family physician about the kind of care your loved one will need.
Also, a geriatric care manager can often recommend facilities and coordinate the transition from hospital to nursing home.
“A geriatric care manager, usually a licensed nurse or social worker who specializes in geriatrics, is a sort of ‘professional relative’ who can help you and your family to identify needs and find ways to meet your needs,” according to the National Institute on Aging. You can find one by visiting eldercare.acl.gov or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
Where to start your search
Whether you have names of places you want to check out or are starting from scratch, kick off your search at Care Compare (medicare.gov/care-compare) for nursing homes certified by Medicare and Medicaid, which most are.
There, facilities are rated for overall care with one to five stars, from lowest to highest quality, based on health inspections, staffing levels and evaluation measures. Search by facility name or location, and filter the results for those rated with four or five stars.
If few options turn up, expand your search geographically and include three-star facilities, which are considered average.
Avoid one- or two-star facilities and those that are “special focus facility” candidates or have already been designated that way, as they have been cited for serious deficiencies or problems over multiple years and need additional oversight.
Next, filter your results for nursing homes rated four or five stars for their staffing of nurses and aides. This represents the level of care that residents receive, such as the number of services they get, how long they must wait for them, and the amount of time that the staff spends attending to each person, said Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
Care Compare isn’t perfect; nursing homes self-report the information, and their data is prone to inflation and manipulation. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which manages the tool, has improved its accuracy over the past several years by basing data on verifiable sources, such as staffing levels from payroll data.
Problems? Contact ombudsman
Every state has an office of ombudsman for long-term care that fields and resolves complaints about nursing homes and other care facilities. In Maryland, Montgomery County’s long-term care ombudsman program can be reached at (240) 777-3369; Prince George’s County at (301) 265-8483. In Washington, D.C., call (202) 434-2190. In Northern Virginia, call (703) 324-5861.
State survey reports are another resource. To be certified by Medicare and Medicaid, facilities must show they comply substantially with federal and state requirements.
The report lists deficiencies cited and enforcement actions taken, with up to three years of survey reports accessible on Care Compare. Nursing homes and your state’s health department should also make the reports available.
Patricia Mertz Esswein is a contributing writer for Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. For more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.
© The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.