Check It

Resources are available to evaluate nursing homes, assisted living centers, physicians and hospitals.

Check a Nursing Home (aka Skilled Nursing Facility)

Assisted Living BuildingIn our experience, quality care is most often provided in long-term care facilities which are either (1) owned and managed by non-profit companies, or (2) family-owned and operated.  Of course, this is a general statement, and there are no absolute certainties. By far, the most important factor you should consider when you choose a nursing home is the quality and quantity of staff that will be providing care to your loved one.

Fortunately, you can conduct your preliminary research using the internet.  Nursing homes are regulated and investigated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).  All CDPH investigations of nursing homes are published on-line by the California Healthcare Foundation, a non-profit organization.  When it is time to choose a nursing home, we recommend the following 3-step approach:

Step 1: Visit www.medicare.gov. and/or www.nursinghomeguide.org to compare the quality of nursing homes in your area.

Step 2: Visit the facility.  Visit more than once and at different times during the day.  Look for the following “tell-tale” signs, which indicate whether or not the facility is sufficiently staffed with well-qualified nurses who are attending to their patients:

  • Do the patients look engaged in activities, or are they left alone in their beds or wheelchairs?
  • Does the staff appear to interact with the patients as they pass by, or do they seem to ignore them?
  • Has the facility posted the latest CDPH investigation report, as required by law?  If so, was the facility cited for any deficiency that put a patient’s health at risk?
  • Does the nursing staff appear to be properly supervised, or do they tend to congregate in the nursing station, talking or eating snacks?
  • Are enough nurses on duty so that the staff is able to promptly respond to call lights or requests for assistance?  Check the “board” at the nurse’s station to see the number of call lights active and how quickly they are turned off.  Each light represents a patient who is waiting to receive assistance.

Talk to patients and their visitors to see how they feel about the care provided, especially those who have been at the facility more than two months.

Step 3: Choose the best facility that is close to friends and family.  Encourage them to visit the patient on a regular basis, and at different times during the day and night.  Frequent monitoring is the best way to ensure good care.

In addition, you can go to www.healthgrades.com, where a nursing home rating report is available for a small fee.

Check an Assisted Living CenterLadies sitting outside facility

Assisted Living Centers (aka Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly or RCFE) provide care, supervision and assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and grooming. They may also provide incidental medical services under special care plans. These facilities range dramatically in size.  Some have a capacity of 3- 6 residents, while others have over 100 beds.

Each resident in a RCFE requires their own unique level of personal care and protective supervision. Because RCFEs offer a wide range of services, consumers should look closely at the programs of each facility to see if the services will meet the needs of their individual loved one.

RCFEs are regulated and investigated by the Department of Social Services (DSS).  Unfortunately, DSS investigation reports are not yet available on-line.  The only way you can obtain the results of past DSS investigations is to either (1) ask the facility to show you their copies, or (2) contact the local DSS office, and make an appointment to view the facility file.

If your loved one needs supervision or assistance with incidental medical services, the most important factors in your decision should be the number of staff employed to provide such services, and their qualifications and training.

Check a Physician

stethoscopePhysicians are regulated by the California Medical Board.  By visiting the California Department of Consumer Affairs website, you can obtain the following information regarding any physician:

  • Disciplinary actions against the physician by a Medical Board.
  • Some felony and misdemeanor convictions.
  • Some disciplinary actions against a physician by a hospital.
  • Some malpractice settlements or judgments involving the physician.

In addition, you can pay a small fee to obtain a report about the physician at www.healthgrades.com.

Check a Hospital

HospitalHospitals (aka Acute Care Facilities) are regulated and investigated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).  Visit www.medicare.gov to compare hospitals in your area.  Many hospitals have special units, floors, wings or departments that are licensed as skilled nursing facilities (aka nursing homes).  Investigation summaries of these units are available in the same manner as any other skilled nursing facility.  Click here for more information.

In addition, you can pay a small fee to obtain a report about the hospital at www.healthgrades.com.

Injured Elder