Many South Carolinians entrust the health and happiness of their loved ones to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities when they are no longer able to live independently. Choosing to move a loved one into a nursing home can be a difficult decision to make, but is often a necessary one for families who are unable to provide full-time care on their own.

But unfortunately, nursing home neglect and abuse is an epidemic in this country, which is why it’s so important to be able to tell the good nursing homes from the bad ones. This guide is intended to help you navigate rating systems to choose a trustworthy nursing home, because all nursing home residents deserve to have their rights protected, regardless of the size or price of the facility.

Medicare Ratings

One of the quickest and simplest ways to check the rating of a nursing home is to search the name of the facility on the Medicare website. You can also search for a complete list of nursing homes that accept Medicare in your state, and compare them based on a star rating from one to five stars. One star means the quality of the home is significantly below average, and five stars means it is significantly above average.

Stars are determined based on three main aspects: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures:

  • The health inspection rating is based on the previous three annual health inspections conducted and whether any investigations were launched into the nursing home over abuse or neglect complaints.
  • The staffing rating takes into consideration how many staff are needed vs. how many staff are working, and how many hours of care each residents receives, with attention paid to whether residents with severe needs are receiving more care than residents with minimal needs.
  • Quality measures refer how well the nursing home is providing for residents’ physical and clinical needs.

Special Focus Facility Lists

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also provides a list of “special focus facilities” (SFFs). SFFs are nursing homes that are either known offenders for providing severely lacking quality of care (1-star facilities on the Medicare 5-star ranking system), or that have been or are part of a government program that targets bad nursing homes in an attempt to improve their quality of care.

Facilities that rank poorly enough to qualify for the SFF program will receive increased inspections and punishments with fines or denial of Medicare payment until they correct the problem(s). By viewing this list, you can see whether a nursing home was ever on the list and whether it improved or relapsed in quality while considered an SFF.

Some nursing home facilities will either be forcibly dropped from Medicare/Medicaid or voluntarily stop accepting Medicare/Medicaid rather than improve their quality of care.

U.S. News & World Report List

U.S. News & World Report publishes lists of the “best nursing homes” in the U.S., which are also searchable by state and ZIP code.

This ranking takes into account:

  • The size of the facility (number of beds available)
  • Whether it specializes in short-term or long-term care
  • Whether it’s privately owned or state owned
  • Whether it accepts Medicare/Medicaid
  • Whether it had any health inspection violations in the last 3 years
  • Rates of residents who experience infections, falls, and receive vaccinations

Remember, Ratings Aren’t Everything

It’s a sad fact that residents can experience neglect and abuse even at highly rated nursing homes. Inspections may not catch everything, and abuse and neglect may not be widespread across the facility. Your loved one may be the victim of one particular caretaker or of a violent resident.

When determining what nursing home to choose, it can be helpful to make unscheduled visits when touring. This could give you a chance to see how the facility looks when they aren’t expecting to be observed. Red flags on a tour include:

  • Badly maintained or aging facilities
  • Staff that appears overworked
  • Residents that seem unattended, depressed, frightened, or overmedicated

On the other hand, if staff seems competent and responsive to residents, the facilities are clean, and the dining area appears to offer tasty and healthy options, it is likely a safe place for your loved one. But speaking to your loved one frequently, including on the phone or by video call if you are unable to visit in person, can help you catch warning signs of abuse and neglect such as poor hygiene and sudden changes in appearance or personality.

When You Need Legal Help for Your Loved One, We’re Here For You

If you’re worried about the level of care your loved one is receiving at their current nursing home, and you want to know what your legal options are, contact Joye Law Firm today for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.

We’ve helped families across South Carolina get justice for their loved ones, as well as the money they need to cover the cost of medical treatment and moving to a new, safer home after experiencing abuse and neglect. We want to help you, too.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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