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How to Choose a Nursing Home

When families can no longer provide the medical care that a loved one requires, they may need to place that family member in the care of a skilled nursing facility otherwise known as a nursing home.

Obviously, everyone wants to find a facility that is both safe and has an environment where their loved one cannot just survive—but truly thrive. The selection of a nursing home for a family member will likely be one of the more important decisions you make for your loved one—and yourself.

If you have questions about the process, talk to our nursing home abuse attorneys. We can help you weigh your options and feel confident in your decision.

How To Select The Best Nursing Home For Your Loved One

Why Selecting a Nursing Facility Is Difficult

Like it or not, the nursing home industry is a big business. Whether the facility is large or small, in a big city or small town, there are economic pressures on the facility to keep heads on the beds. The more patients a facility has, the more money it is bringing in.

On a similar note, there is an industry trend towards staffing facilities with workers who may be under-qualified or without simply not enough staff to care for the patients at the facility. Again, these decisions are primarily economic in nature when the operator of a facility attempts to extract as much profit from a facility.

While the owners of nursing homes are making record profits, patients in nursing homes face systemic problems which may lead to their decline or serious injury.

Start by Doing Some Homework—Online

Perhaps your family member has a medical condition where they have been hospitalized and their physician's suggest a discharge to a nursing home. Most hospitals have social workers or other support staff that can suggest facilities that may meet your needs.

In a case where a person may be living independently or with you, but requires a higher level of medical care than you can provide, asking their personal physician for some suggestions in terms of nursing facilities that they like can be a good starting point as well.

Once you are armed with a list of facilities, you can cover quite a bit of ground in terms of researching them by looking at a few different websites. One of the benefits of the fact that most skilled nursing homes are government funded and controlled is that information on them is regularly gathered and is accessible to the public.

Over the past several years Federal and State Governments have responded to public requests with the development of Medicare's nursing home compare website as well as state's department of public health in Illinois.

  • Medicare's Nursing Home Compare: The federal government has listings for each Medicare funded nursing home in the country. You can look up a facility by name or proximity to your city or zip code.
    Here you can also access information on the facilities location, but perhaps most importantly rating-information from inspections of the facility when it comes to: health inspections, staffing levels and quality measures.
    Using a 5-star rating system, facilities receive a rating in each category. Tip: put more weight on the staffing ratios compared to other categories, as they are likely a better predictor of care than others.
  • Illinois Department of Heath: Illinois residents are fortunate to have a fairly advanced database of nursing facilities within the state that is organized and updated by IDPH.
    Here, you can access much more detailed information on a facility that you may be considering by accessing recent survey reports as well as information on the owners and patient demographics.

You've Done Some Research on a Facility. Now What?

Armed with some information you've accessed about a facility from physician and staff suggestions and information from your online snooping, you are now ready to pay a visit to a facility.

An in-person visit is probably the most important thing that you can do when selecting a nursing home where a loved one may be living for the short or long-term. While you can read at length about how a facility is rated, seeing things with your own eyes can be far more telling, like the dining room and bedroom.

You may contact the long term care administrator (manager) of a facility to arrange for a visit. Right away you should be able to get some insight into the facility from how the administrator responds to your request.

Is he or she genuinely responsive to your request or do they make you feel like they are doing you a favor by speaking to you?

Once physically present at the facility, look around and trust your intuition. Pay special attention to:

  • How does the facility look? Is it clean or tired and dirty?
  • How do the patients at the facility look? Of course most people are there because they are elderly or sick, but do they seem clean and well cared for? Is everybody in their bed?
  • How does the staff look? Are they friendly? Do they seem stressed and crabby?
  • Does the facility offer any amenities? While a nursing home will not be a Ritz Carlton—nor should it—does the facility offer some type of recreation?

While one scheduled visit can be telling, paying another second visit—completely unannounced can be equally—or perhaps more so. Sometimes, facilities put their best foot forward when a visit is announced.

If you are denied a tour of the facility during an unannounced visit, then you may wish to reconsider the facility as a possible selection for your family member.

Not Every Facility Is Perfect, but Your Loved One Should Be Safe

The placement of a loved one in a nursing home can be stressful indeed. During the process, it is important to remember that there's no such thing as a ‘perfect place'. While a facility may not check every box in terms of what you desire for your family member, the facility should offer a pleasant and safe environment.

You should always monitor your family members—especially during the initial transition to a facility—when they may having the most difficult time adjusting. Anytime you notice a condition that is concerning, make your voice heard to staff at the facility—you may be avoiding larger problems down the road.

And remember, sometimes selecting the best facility for a loved one comes through trial and error—sometimes on a second try!

Qualities That Nursing Home Residents Should Look for in a Skilled Nursing Facility

Nursing home placement is not something you or other family members should take lightly. Most nursing home residents require advanced nursing care from staff members due to old age or infirmities. It is incumbent upon people to investigate the skilled nursing facilities thoroughly to not put them at further risk.

Here are some qualities to keep an eye out for when reviewing nursing homes:

  • Staff levels (including nursing assistants, certified nursing assistant, registered nurses, and other skilled nursing care staff members).
  • Fire alarm and other preventative devices throughout the entire facility.
  • The number of incidents and complaint investigations in the past.
  • How many residents live there?
  • The nursing home location and distance to your home.
  • Whether residents' rooms are shared or live in single units.

Hopefully this list helps you evaluate facilities. Make sure to ask about them and other resources when you are visiting facilities because the high cost should demand their answers.

Due to COVID-19, a lot of these issues and quality measures are even more important. You and your family members should raise them when talking to nursing homes about skilled nursing care.

You can also review state and federal laws, even Medicaid services, regarding skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation services, and similar healthcare providers. Learning about the laws that govern an assisted living facility will better help you identify and prevent risks.

Our firm can investigate complaints at nursing homes or other facilities. We can also assist residents involved in abuse at residential facilities due to nursing home staff or members.

COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

Facility staff at nursing homes have had a difficult job since the spread COVID-19. Both for profit and public health nursing homes have had to adjust to protect residents.

Nursing homes have had to educate nursing assistants and other nursing home staff on the importance of preventing the spread and how to identify its symptoms. Nursing staff have also had to request additional community residents in order to provide adequate nursing home care. This has added to an already high cost of nursing home care in state and federal centers.

Despite these efforts, COVID-19 and related medical conditions have spread quickly in nursing homes and other long term care programs. It also had made an emergency situation that affected the quality of care.

As you look at nursing homes, use this information and other community resources to determine if the health care facility can provide the level of personal care you need. Nursing home care (including physical therapy) have changed since COVID and your decision making process should too. This will ensure you obtain the quality of care you deserve.

Common Problems at Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are supposed to be a source of comfort and support for the sick and elderly. Unfortunately, that is not what they are in too many cases.

Instances of abuse and neglect are rampant among nursing homes especially in big areas of large states like Illinois, California, and Florida, among others. Some common themes emerge among the claims and cases filed here.

The first is physical abuse. This can be among residents or from the staff themselves. Choking, assaults, and other physical harm is all too common and it should not be.

The second recurrent issue is neglect. This failure allows patients to become malnourished, dehydrated, stranded, and eloped, among other things. It also leads to bed sores, sepsis, and falls.

The third frequent issue in long term care places is a lack of coordination. Homes needed to do a better job of connecting residents' medical providers together.

This can include a social worker note, doctor's order, or something similar. Problems happen when they are not talking to each other.

If you pay privately for nursing home care, you should rightfully expect an expert high level of quality care. If that is not the case, we can help you file a complaint. They might especially be useful after failed inspection reports as the state might be more willing to listen.

Our firm has worked with the California Department of Social Services, the Family Council, Resident Council, and other institutions to raise the quality of direct care at nursing homes. Individual residents deserve nothing less than excellent nursing home care.

Talk to us before you leave your own home and pay privately for long term care.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Nursing Homes

What Should I Do Before I Enter a Nursing Home?

Before signing an agreement or contract with a nursing home, speak with an experienced law firm. They can make sure you don’t sign any of your rights away and put you and your family in the most secure position possible. Nursing home residents and their family members should learn how to choose a nursing home because choosing a nursing home is key to their health.

Can I Still Obtain Compensation Even If I Signed an Arbitration Agreement With a Nursing Home?

Yes, plaintiffs can still recover compensation For nursing home abuse even if they signed an arbitration agreement but the manner and method will be different. The setting will probably be in front of an arbitrator who will most likely be pro-nursing home.

The compensation available will most likely be more limited than what is available in court. Therefore, it is crucial not to sign an arbitration agreement prior to entering a nursing home.

Choosing a nursing home is one of the biggest decisions for you and your family members. Correct nursing home placement must analyze nursing care, nursing home cost, nursing home assistants level, and more.

How Much Would It Cost Upfront to Bring a Case Against a Nursing Home?

Nothing because capable law firms like ours work on contingency so that we can get to work for you and you do not have to worry about a dime of expenses until we secure an award or settlement for you. Our team has the resources, experience, and commitment necessary to make sure your case has the best chances as possible of winning! You deserve no less.

Can I Still Be a Claim Even If My Loved One Died in a Nursing Home?

Yes, Illinois law allows families to bring cases against nursing homes if their conduct caused or substantially contributed to the death of their residents. This liability extends to persons working there and third parties that operate within the facility as well.

These claims can reimburse aggrieved families for their pain, sorrow, and costs that the tragedy caused.

Sample Cases Involving Nursing Homes

To show you the types of problems in these facilities as well as possible ways to recover after them, we have summarized some cases for your review.

$290,000 Settlement:

This case was brought against a Cook County nursing home after an elderly woman died from UTIs and bed sores. Prior to passing, she had reduced mobility and other serious health problems.

These contributed to the urinary tract infections, bed sores, and other complications. Her family complained that the facility was negligent in its care and supervision of her and that these failures caused her deteriorating condition.

Otherwise, they could have been prevented, they argued. Eventually, both sides settled for a reported $290,000.

$513,000 Verdict:

In this case, a nursing home patient was being moved from a bed to a lift chair when the nurses accidentally dropped her. As a result of the incident, the patient sustained a broken leg and severe emotional distress.

The woman soon filed a lawsuit against the nurse involved and the nursing home that employed the nurse. It alleged the nurse negligently handled the plaintiff by failing to get help and dropping her; additionally, it alleged the nursing home was negligent because it did not sufficiently train or support its employees.

The defendants flatly denied all of these allegations and the extent of the injuries claimed in the suit. The jury thought differently and awarded the woman $350,000. However, after-trial negotiations raised the award to $513,000.

$837,552 Settlement

In this case, the estate of a woman sued a nursing home following her death after she developed bedsores and died from their complications. Apparently, the bedsores had worsened so badly that maggots were actually found inside the affected area.

Also, she was suffering from dehydration and malnutrition at the time of her death. The subsequent lawsuit complained that the nursing home failed to meet the standard of care required of similar homes by not adequately monitoring the victim, by not properly training its staff, and for allowing the emergence of bedsores.

It concluded that the nursing home was responsible for her death. The nursing home could not mount any legitimate defense to these allegations so both sides agreed on a settlement of $837,552.

$1,950,000 Settlement:

An elderly woman was trying to find her way back to her room when she came across a stairwell. Thinking she was on the right track, she started walking down it but fell halfway and broke her neck.

Unfortunately, she died from the injury. Her estate sued the retirement center and argued that their negligent supervision and management caused the accident and death. Not seeing any better alternative available, the defendant nursing home persuaded the plaintiffs to settle the case for $1,950,000.

$550,000 Settlement:

This case involved some rather unique allegations. The victim involved fell down when another nursing home resident pushed him to the floor. He was taken to the emergency room where it was discovered that he had a broken hip.

Not soon after that incident, he died. Next of kin to the man brought a lawsuit because they thought the immobility that resulted contributed to his passing. With more detail, their lawsuit set out that the nursing home should have constructed a safer environment for its residents, it should have provided better care to its residents, and it should have more extensively monitored the interactions of its residents.

The defendant nursing home denied these claims and said the man who attacked the decedent should be blamed. However, rather than fight this matter in court, it settled out of court with the decedent’s estate for $550,000.

Talk With Our Nursing Home Lawyers

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers works with families considering nursing homes. We help them evaluate the agreements they must sign prior to moving their loved ones into such facilities.

Our dedicated team helps them analyze nursing homes so that they do not lock themselves into bad situations. Then, if trouble arises, our lawyers bring claims on their behalf to recover for nursing home abuse and neglect.

Call us today at (888) 424-5757 to see what you can do. Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones!

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa