Navigating the Nursing Home Choices

Ask my clients; the last place that anyone wants to be is in a nursing home.  Unfortunately, that is too often the unavoidable choice many face given the declining health of loved ones. Once the decision is made, life saving though it may be, it does not always become easier. The fact is, no matter how good the care, nothing will likely replace your on-going, personal attention.   However, I have more than my clients’ empirical evidence to offer. I found a recent report entitled: “Relationship between Quality of Care and Negligence Litigation in Nursing Homes” in The New England Journal of Medicine that proves their point.

This rather scholarly article started with the question ‘Does providing good care in a nursing home within the U.S. result in fewer lawsuits filed as a result of that good care?’ These researchers found that there was not a significant relationship between the quality of the care residents received and the risk that one or more lawsuits will be claimed against that nursing home. ‘Good’ nursing homes stand a 40 percent chance of being sued, while the worst institutions only stood only a slightly greater chance at 47 percent.   “It seems a fairly modest difference between the very best and the very worst facilities,” concluded Dr. David Stevenson, a health policy analyst at Harvard Medical School and an author of the analysis.  My conclusion?  Americans are litigious.  Therefore, the number of lawsuits filed against a nursing home is not necessarily an indication of the care one might receive there. This article offers no meaningful shortcut in your search for good care.  You still must weigh all the options for care in your area, then talk to the staff, the residents’ families, your neighbors and consult a rating agency you trust.

Once your have made the difficult decision of where to place a loved one in need of continuing care, you may want to consider my clients’ advice: visit often but never on a predictable schedule; remember, that there is no such thing as a small concern, everything can be important- if you are not comfortable any change you see, keep asking questions until you feel you’ve reached a plausible answer – then check it again.  Be kind; respectful but skeptical. In short: ADVOCATE, which by definition means to plead on behalf of another in order to guarantee results in their best interest.  In the end, we simply cannot do more than that.

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