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When searching for pretty much anything these days, most people start with the Internet. This even holds true for those deciding on a nursing home for a loved one who is no longer able to live independently. Several sites exist that provide nursing home ratings, and one of the most trusted is the one provided by the government at Because Medicare provides a large portion of the income received by nursing homes, the government has a vested interest in the care provided at the homes. The site provides ratings from one to five stars based on inspections and incident reports.

ABC 11 News in Raleigh-Durham, NC, recently investigated the North Carolina nursing home ratings on the Medicare site and found that they were not always accurate. One reason is that detailed inspection and incident reports were shortened to a few general sentences on the website. According to a representative from Medicare, the complete reports are now available on the website. Another reason they could be misleading is because of the length of time it takes the website to be updated. Turnover of nursing home staff is very high, and a nursing home that was providing sufficient care a few months ago may have a large number of new employees that are now providing sub-standard care. Someone considering a nursing home in this situation would not know about the change if the website has not been updated.

If you are searching for a nursing home for your loved one, it is important not to base your decision solely on a website, even if it is provided by the federal government. Talk to people who have personal experience with the nursing home or long-term care facility. Interview the director of the nursing home and some of the staff to get a feel for the people who would be interacting with your relative on a daily basis. Most importantly, visit the nursing home yourself, preferably unannounced, to see the living conditions and the type of care the current residents are receiving. Our nursing home guide provides a list of items to look for when visiting a home that may signal abuse or neglect. Make sure the nursing home and staff are the perfect fit for your family before agreeing to let them take care of your loved one.

About the Editors: Our personal injury law firm has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC). The attorneys with the firm publish and edit articles on three Legal Examiner sites for the geographic areas of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Northeast North Carolina as a pro bono service to the general public.


One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Peter Egan
    Peter Egan

    As one who has worked in home health care, a field which is governed by the same ratings system (with appropriate differences to reflect the nature of the field), I can personally attest that the issue of subjectivity in these ratings is in no way limited to nursing homes. The entire Medicare ratings system could use a second look to ensure that the best agencies are actually being rewarded for superior performance.

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