Scripps finds inequalities in nursing home care

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Lee Bowman and Thomas Hargrove of Scripps Howard News Service looked into nursing homes around the country and found the quality of care to be quite uneven, highlighting the difficulty of finding a good nursing home.

nursing
Photo by by ulrichkarljoho via Flickr.

Despite the differences in care, Bowman and Hargrove were able to draw some conclusions from their analysis of the Nursing Home Compare data:

  • Institutions run by for-profit corporations generally get lower scores than those run by nonprofits.
  • Homes with more nursing staff per patient generally do better in the ratings.
  • Homes with more than 100 beds tend to get lower scores
  • Ratings are lowest in South and highest for homes in the Northeast.
  • Slightly more than 20 percent of nursing homes nationwide have been regularly given the lowest ratings, and 12 percent to 13 percent have received the top rating.

Bowman found that, because of medical concerns, many families are forced to choose a nursing home on a very tight timetable, usually related to a loved one’s hospital discharge date. Concerns like expedience and geographic proximity, then, often end up trumping nursing home quality. To help better direct this process, Bowman offered “Ten things to consider in nursing home care,” only one of which directly relates to the Nursing Home Compare database.

For ideas on how to localize stories on this general theme, check out the rest of the Scripps package.

Covering the Health of Local Nursing HomesSlim guide:
Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes

Check out AHCJ’s latest volume in its ongoing Slim Guide series. This reporting guide gives a head start to journalists who want to pursue stories about one of the most vulnerable populations – nursing home residents. It offers advice about Web sites, datasets, research and other resources. After reading this book, journalists can have more confidence in deciphering nursing home inspection reports, interviewing advocacy groups on all sides of an issue, locating key data, and more. The book includes story examples and ideas.

AHCJ publishes these reporting guides, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to help journalists understand and accurately report on specific subjects.

Recent workshop

AHCJ resources

AHCJ’s Aging in the 21st Century workshop, held Oct. 16 and 17 in Miami, addressed many topics raised by the Tribune’s reports, as well as the changing picture of aging Americans and key research and issues related to this growing population. Tip sheets and presentations from that workshop are available to AHCJ members, as are these related tip sheets:

1 thought on “Scripps finds inequalities in nursing home care

  1. carey

    I think the issue you raise about the constraints of time when choosing a nursing home, assisted living facility or even hospice are right on and a barrier that is often overlooked. I know of a few hospitals in our area that are taking larger steps to have hospice education be introduced earlier on in a patients stay, much like they are doing with palliative care so decisions can be made with more flexible time conditions. For one, the folks in our area are treating this as an organizing problem, which means they are encouraging others to re-think the role of the medical team in order to make it more collaborative so providers who are more likely to have these conversations with patients and families are introduced sooner and are part and parcel of the care team. Important post, thanks….

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