The Union Leader had an article about the quality of nursing home care in New Hampshire. More than half the nursing homes in New Hampshire are rated above average by a federal oversight agency, one-quarter of them rank below average. When it comes to finding the right home for a loved one, advocates say using the wealth of data that’s out there, in tandem with personal visits, is the best approach.
One good place to start is medicare.gov, where you’ll find 80 licensed nursing homes in the state rated from one to five stars (five is the best). The ratings are based on health-inspection reports, staffing levels and quality measures the nursing homes are required to report to oversight agencies. The state’s Health Facilities Administration is required by federal law to inspect every licensed nursing home sometime between nine and 15 months after the previous inspection.
New Hampshire has 16 five-star nursing homes, rated "much above average." Most are nonprofit or church-related. The state currently has three nursing homes rated one-star, considered "much below average," and 17 "below average" two-star facilities. (One facility that got one star is no longer a licensed nursing home.). Sixteen homes get three stars, rated "average," and 27 are "above average" with four stars.
Kathleen Otte, administrator of the state Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services, said families should use the five-star ratings as a foundation for their decision-making. But then they need to "do their homework in another area, the human element," she said. "I would suggest people go unannounced, meet the staff, meet families if possible, review the survey results that they can find at the administrator’s office, and see for themselves." "Because every family member will have certain expectations, and you want to make sure that that facility that you’re touring can meet those expectations," Otte said.
Each home is required to publicly post the results of surveys conducted by state inspectors. hat’s where you’ll find any deficiencies such as fire-code violations, and data about how many patients had bedsores, physical restraints, pain, anxiety or depression. Families also can obtain inspection reports from the state, and on medicare.gov.
Fmilies can find help making these decisions from the trained counselors at ServiceLink resource centers. She noted New Hampshire was first in the nation to create this statewide network of Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
For health and safety reports on nursing homes, go to medicare.gov and click first on "facilities and doctors," then "compare nursing homes." There’s also a "Nursing Home Checklist" to help narrow your choices.
Free counseling about long-term care options is available at the state’s ServiceLink resource centers. Call 1-866-634-9412.