Attempting to find a quality nursing home for a loved one may appear, at times, as a daunting task. It can prove to be difficult in trying to discern reputable care centers where a family can take comfort in knowing their loved one is cared for, versus those nursing homes concerned only with their bottom line.
In order to assist families with these difficult choices, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created the Five-Star Quality Rating System to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily and to help identify areas about which you may want to ask questions.
The Nursing Home Compare website features a quality rating system that gives each nursing home a rating of between 1 and 5 stars. Nursing homes with 5 stars are considered to have much above average quality and nursing homes with 1 star are considered to have quality much below average. There is one Overall rating for each nursing home, and separate ratings for each of the following three sources of information:
Health Inspections at Nursing Homes
- The health inspection rating contains information from the last 3 years of onsite inspections, including both standard surveys and any complaint surveys. This information is gathered by trained, objective inspectors who go onsite to the nursing home and follow a specific process to determine the extent to which a nursing home has met Medicaid and Medicare’s minimum quality requirements. The most recent survey findings are weighted more than the prior two years. More than 180,000 onsite reviews are used in the health inspection scoring nationally.
Staffing at the Nursing Home
- The staffing rating has information about the number of hours of care provided on average to each resident each day by nursing staff. This rating considers differences in the levels of residents’ care need in each nursing home. For example, a nursing home with residents who had more severe needs would be expected to have more nursing staff than a nursing home where the resident needs were not as high.
Quality Measures (QMs) of Nursing Homes
- The quality measure rating has information on 11 different physical and clinical measures for nursing home residents. The rating now includes information about nursing homes’ use of antipsychotic medications in both long-stay and short-stay residents. This information is collected by the nursing home for all residents. The QMs offer information about how well nursing homes are caring for their residents’ physical and clinical needs. More than 12 million assessments of the conditions of nursing home residents are used in the Five-Star rating system.
However, it is important to remember that no rating system can address all the important considerations that go into a decision about which nursing home is best for a particular person. Examples include the extent to which specialty care is provided (such as specialized rehabilitation or dementia care) or how easy it will be for family members to visit the nursing home resident. As such visits can improve both the residents’ quality of life and quality of care, it may often be better to select a nursing home that is very close over one that may be, compared to a higher-rated nursing home that would be far away. Consumers should therefore use the CMS website together with other sources of information for the nursing homes (including a visit to the nursing home) and State or local organizations (such as local advocacy groups and the State Ombudsman program).
You can learn more about the Five-Star Quality Rating System at this link.