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By Wayne Hogan and Albert Lechner

Having to select a nursing home for a loved is one must be one of the most challenging and difficult decisions we can face. This article offers some considerations and resources to help you investigate and choose a nursing home that’s right for your loved one.

Getting Started: Unannounced Visit

Compare the nursing homes you are considering by taking an unannounced visit to each of the facilities. Pay close attention to how you are greeted by the staff, and how they treat residents and one another. Is the facility neat and free from odors? Ask to speak with other residents or their families about their experiences. Ask your loved one’s physician, and any other physicians you know (especially those who have elderly patients), what they know about the facility. In addition to an in-person visit, there are many free resources available to further assist with your research into the facility.

State and Federal Agencies

Visit www.medicare.gov/NHCompare, a free site that allows you to compare the quality of the facilities being considered using a five star rating system. It includes results of health inspections, staff data, quality measures and fire safety inspection reports.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) inspects nursing homes each year. Its survey includes a facility tour, interviews with residents, family, staff, visitors and volunteers, an assessment of resident rights, protections and activities, and medical record reviews.  Survey results and a Watch List of facilities that did not meet minimum standards can be found here on AHCA’s website.

You may also request this Florida Nursing Home Guide. It contains an inspection history, ownership status, special services, charges or deficiencies and ratings for every nursing home in Florida.

Other Helpful Resources

You may also obtain reports on inspections and complaints at www.healthgrades.com and www.carescout.com, two unbiased sources for reviews of nursing homes nationwide. Check certifying agency reports for information on the quality of nursing homes. This Medicare publication has additional information on choosing a nursing home.

The Admissions Process

When you have decided on a nursing home, please beware of something you will surely encounter during the admissions process. Your loved one will be presented with numerous documents for signature during the admission process. The admissions agreement will likely contain language where the resident agrees to waive their rights to a jury trial to resolve any disputes against the facility – including any civil actions as the result of any neglect or abuse –and instead submit them to binding arbitration. It is a misconception that arbitration is faster and less expensive than a civil lawsuit. The reality is that any cost savings or time savings are offset by the lower damage awards that are usually awarded by arbitration panels. Even though most nursing homes will not require the resident to agree to binding arbitration, most residents simply sign the admissions agreement containing such language without thought of the consequences or without opting out of the arbitration provision (which almost all facilities will let the resident do). Please ensure that you review the paperwork signed by your loved one for admission to the facility and discuss any arbitration provision with them immediately.

The injuries and consequences that result from neglect in nursing homes can be devastating. If you or a loved one has experienced neglect while a resident of a nursing home, it is important to consult with an attorney experienced in nursing home cases and who has the resources to vigorously pursue justice on your behalf.