If you must find a nursing home for a parent, relative, or friend, the best place to start is online at the Medicare Web site. You will be able to receive information about nursing homes in your area and how they are qualified by Medicare.
On the Medicare Home Page type “Nursing Home Compare” in the “Search Medicare.gov” Search Box at the top of the page. You will then be able to look for a skilled nursing facility by its name or the city, county, state, or ZIP code where it is located.
For example, if you put in the area code for downtown St. Petersburg, Florida (33701) and request a list of nursing homes within a ten mile radius, you will receive the name, phone number, address, and exact distance for thirty-three different skilled nursing facilities to choose from, plus their one to five star ratings. They are rated by Medicare using the Five-Star system, which will let you know if the facility is considered, much above average, above average, average, below average, and much below average. It grades the overall quality of the facility, nursing staff, results of the health inspection, and their quality measures. You can also find out about the results of their fire safety inspections, different ways you can pay for nursing home care, and alternatives to a skilled nursing facility.
Download the “Nursing Home Checklist” at the bottom of the “Nursing Home Compare” page under “Additional Information” and follow it when investigating each facility you are interested in learning about. Don’t be shy about asking the questions on the list. Fact finding by visiting and making inquiries are the most important steps to take to be sure you choose the nursing home that will best suit your loved one’s specific health and lifestyle needs.
Medical necessities, such as rehabilitation therapy and wound care are essential, but also take into consideration available durable medical equipment, professionalism of staff, the ratio of staff members to patients, the issue of privacy, basic environmental cleanliness and tranquility, natural illumination, spaciousness of rooms, friendliness of roommates, daily activities offered, courtyards or gardens to get some daily sunshine, restroom accommodations, visiting hours, quality of meals, and accessibility to friends and family.
If your loved one is depending on your advice during this difficult time, don’t simply follow the recommendations of a physician, family, or friends. Do your homework. Find the best care you can afford. The quality of care offered by the facility can make the difference between someone healing quickly or slowly, a patient’s positive, happy attitude or falling into a deep depression, and a safe, clean environment versus a potentially hazardous environment where bacteria can fester and accidents happen.