Families trying to decide what nursing home to place a loved one in can use evaluations of nursing homes done by the Federal Government to help make this decision.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services evaluated all nursing homes in the United States that receives Medicare or Medicaid payments for nursing home care. There are about 15,800 such nursing homes in the United States, 792 in Illinois.

The homes were evaluated based on:  1) Nursing home inspections conducted by state departments, like the Illinois Department of Public Health; 2) Staffing in the homes; 3) and, Quality Measures. Scoring is based on a five star quality rating, one star representing “much below average” care and five stars representing “much above average” care.

After the family has decided to place a loved one in a nursing home, it is critical that the family do as much as possible to choose the right one. This tool, which can be found at http://www.medicare.gov, can provide the family with useful information.

This information, however, will not guarantee what type of care the loved one will receive in the nursing home. Therefore, it is important that the family or close friend monitor the care being given to the loved one after he or she is placed in the facility. This can be done, for example, by checking in at different times of the day; regular communication with the attending physician; or, developing a relationship with a nurse’s aide who regularly provides care to the resident.

Even families and close friends who keep close track of the care being given to their loved one cannot know everything that goes on. It is important to take immediate action if abuse or neglect is suspected. This may be as simple as contacting the Ombudsman for the nursing home if the problem is simple and isolated, such as theft of clothing or valuables. On the other hand, in cases of severe abuse or neglect like pressure ulcers, falls, medication errors, or physical abuse, the family should strongly consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in nursing home cases.

This family should use this tool offered by the Federal Government in evaluating nursing homes. As all families know, though, the job is not over after placement and it is important to stay vigilant and ready to act if there are signs of abuse or neglect.