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5 Things to Remember When Choosing a Nursing Home

(Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock)

(Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock)

KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting have teamed up to tell a decidedly sobering story of abuse by caregivers in California nursing homes. If you’re wondering who’s protecting the elderly, perhaps the most haunting quote is this one from Brian Woods, former director of the state Department of Public Health’s office in West Covina (Los Angeles County):

“I would tell anybody: Do not count on the government taking care of you,” Woods said.

I’m not sure whether to feel disheartened or furious. But what the KQED and CIR reports speak to are the need for patients (if possible) and certainly their families and loved ones to be very engaged when selecting a nursing home in the first place.

When you are looking for a nursing home, there are “time-tested methods for identifying and evaluating nursing homes,” according to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a leading statewide advocate for long-term care for the last 30 years. I talked to Pat McGinnis, CANHR co-founder and executive director.

1) Visit in person: It sounds pretty basic, but this was one of the first things McGinnis said. “People will look to the (Medicare) five-star approval,” she said, in reference to Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website, “but we’ve got five-star facilities that are terrible and two-star facilities that are good.” Websites are a starting point, but you must go take a look — and be sure to visit more than one facility. Then, trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling right off the bat, pay attention to that feeling. Continue reading