On Friday, February 20, 2015 Medicare announced three significant changes to its popular Five Star Nursing Home Quality Rating System. So, what was the effect? The effect of these changes may be to lower a particular home’s ratings. According to USAToday “nearly a third of the nation’s nursing homes are getting lower scores on the government’s five-star quality scale.” (Read the article on Nursing Home Ratings being lowered.)

The changes include the analysis of a home’s use of antipsychotic drugs which pose a risk for nursing home residents and are often over used as a method of chemical restraint. There are also changes to how nursing home staffing is assessed.

Prior to these changes as Forbes magazine noted “trouble is, Nursing Home Compare has had serious flaws that have made the facilities look like the children of Lake Wobegon (all “above average.”) Roughly 80% of the nation’s nursing homes got a four- or five-star rating on their quality measures score — well, they did until last Friday.” As a result of these changes “about 61% of all nursing homes got lower quality-of-care scores as a result of the changes, but the declines weren’t dramatic enough in most cases to affect a facility’s overall rating” according to USA TODAY’s analysis.

While we welcome these changes, it still does not eliminate the problem of nursing home’s “gaming” the system that we discussed in our FAQ. Read about why selecting the best nursing home for your parent is crucial. Nursing Compare remains a useful though imperfect tool to assist you. You should also contact us so that we can provide you with the most recent government inspection reports of the home you are considering for your parent. This will provide you with even more detailed information about your particular nursing home.

Of course selecting the best home and visiting your parent frequently are crucial on their own, but are not sufficient. Nursing Home Guardians’ service can help provide you with peace of mind that your parent is getting the care that they are paying for, need and deserve.