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TN Nursing Home Suspended: What Should You Look For in Facility?

Experts say that when touring a nursing home, pay attention to things such as the nurse-to-patient ratio, and the availability of information for residents. (Ulrich Joho/flickr)
Experts say that when touring a nursing home, pay attention to things such as the nurse-to-patient ratio, and the availability of information for residents. (Ulrich Joho/flickr)
March 30, 2018

LIMESTONE, Tenn. – This month, the Tennessee Department of Health suspended new admissions of residents at a Limestone, Tenn., nursing home – citing complaints made regarding nursing services, medical records and pharmaceutical services. But how do you know if you're placing your loved one in a reputable facility – before such drastic measures are taken by the state?

Sally Pitt, patient care advocate for the Office of Patient Care Advocacy, Tennessee Department of Health, says the best thing to do is see it for yourself, taking care to note certain things.

"As you're touring the facility, you're looking for the temperature; is it comfortable for the residents? Any odors, and are those odors temporary?” she says. “Can you easily find any posted instructions throughout the facilities? For example, resident rights: Are they posted throughout the facility?"

Pitt adds that you should talk with residents and staff members, and use the Nursing Home Compare website offered by Medicare.gov. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also have a star rating system, ranking nursing homes with one to five stars depending on performance.

Late last year, the state also suspended new admissions at a Nashville area nursing home for similar reasons.

The federal Older Americans Act, authorized in 1965, created long-term care ombudsmen available around the country. Pitt says the number for your local advocate should be posted in the nursing home. She also suggests paying attention to what's happening at the nurses' station and in the dining hall.

"Looking at call lights: Are call lights being responded to quickly and appropriately?” she says. “And I think an important item is also looking at the food, the meal preparation. Are the menus posted? Talking to staff members, can preferences be made?"

There are 319 nursing homes in Tennessee, with the average cost of a skilled nursing-care home being $69,000 a year.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN