Nursing Home Care Improves in the Past 35 years

By Eileen Doherty, MS ~

Denver, CO – In 1988, nursing home advocates successfully included federal mandates in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) to make dramatic changes in the care that is provided in nursing homes. While some might disagree, the care that is provided today has dramatically improved with these reforms.  Nursing homes care for the sickest of the sick in our society and the most vulnerable looking for ways to bring quality of life in creative and supportive ways.

The major change is a focus on quality of care focusing on residents who need long-term care.  Nursing homes provide a minimum number of nursing hours to each resident.  Therapy through Medicare Part B is available to residents who need assistance with strengthening and help to maintain independence.  Resident satisfaction is important. All facilities have both a Resident Council and Family Council meetings. They welcome family and community involvement.

Long term care ombudsman advocate for residents with mandatory monthly visits.  Ombudsman are there to provide support and help residents with care, conflict, and other supports to improve quality of life.

Activities are scheduled daily.  Residents who are unable to engage in group activities must receive one-to-one activities to ensure social engagement.

Nursing homes also provide skilled rehab services for individuals who need short-term therapy and nursing support to be able to return to their home following a fall, surgery, or an episode that makes them weak.  The goal of a short-term rehab stay is to return individuals to their home, often within 20 days.

Medicare assigns all nursing homes a star ratings.  A five-star rating means the home is able to provide quality care in such areas as limited use of antipsychotic medications; few, if any pressure sores; residents are able to move around on their own; and residents report pain is controlled.  The higher the star rating, the better the quality of care.

Nursing homes are inspected annually by the Colorado Department of Public Health.  Inspection findings are published at healthfacilities.info.  Some facilities also receive follow-up surveys from Medicare inspectors. 

At medicare.gov, you can search Medicare Compare which is a central information source for staffing data, quality of care data, vaccine boosters, fire inspections, emergency preparedness plans, and penalties.  In addition, facilities that have been cited for abuse and neglect have a “red hand” on their listing.

For a complete list of licensed nursing homes, you can visit the interactive Housing and Home Care Locator at www.senioranswers.org/guide/ with links to each facility for specific information on pricing, features, and payment sources. Print copies of the 2022-23 Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook with this information will soon be available in local libraries and at senior fairs.  For more information, call 303-333-3482.

Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society.  Her areas of expertise include management and administration of nonprofit organizations, education and training on issues related to older adults, advocacy and policy development on senior issues, and clinical practice in working with seniors and families to manage their lives in the later years. She has been the Director of the Society since 1982.  She teaches Nonprofit Management for Fort Hays State University.

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