As Colorado nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys, we are often asked for advice on what nursing home would be best for mom or dad in Denver, the Front Range, and beyond. Unfortunately, because the quality of care at nursing homes can change so rapidly, we are often unable to provide direct advice on the best Colorado or Denver facilities. However, there are some tools available on the Internet that can provide a good picture of where not to place your loved one.
The Colorado health department’s website maintains a full list of health care surveys of all Colorado nursing homes. If you follow the link below and type in the name of the nursing home or assisted living facility you are considering, you will pull up the health department deficiency page associated with that nursing home or assisted living facility: https://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hf/index.html
Interpreting the results of the surveys is fairly straightforward, we believe. Colorado nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to be surveyed or inspected by the health department routinely, usually every year or so. In addition, the Colorado health department investigates complaints of abuse, neglect and other concerns made by residents, family members or other advocates.
If the health department finds that a nursing home or assisted living facility has violated State or Federal nursing home regulations or other Colorado or Federal laws, the facility will be cited with one or more deficiencies.
These deficiencies will be listed on the Internet webpage for each individual facility. For Denver and surrounding area nursing homes, deficiencies are ranked on a scale from A to L. For example, an A level deficiency is a minor infraction involving only one resident. An L level deficiency is the worst. It entails immediate jeopardy to the health or safety of most or all of the nursing home residents. For assisted living facilities, the rankings are from A through C, with C being the most severe.
When reviewing deficiencies against a prospective Colorado nursing home, you should be looking at the number of deficiencies as well as the severity of those deficiencies. Deficiencies of level G or greater indicate that the health department has found that the nursing home’s care has caused actual harm to one or more residents. That makes G through L deficiencies something to watch out for.
There is one caveat. Colorado law allows facilities to appeal deficiencies through what is called Informal Dispute Resolution, or IDR. Some people believe that IDR often works in the favor of nursing homes because it gives the nursing home the opportunity to essentially negotiate a serious G or greater deficiency to something less serious. IDR proceedings are not listed on the Internet, so it is impossible to determine whether a D level deficiency, for example, had been originally cited as a serious G level deficiency.
That aside, you can expect that nursing homes in Denver and Colorado with few and relatively minor deficiencies over a period of years might be a better facility than one that is regularly cited with a large number of deficiencies or deficiencies at level G or greater. Just like anything else, past performance does not guarantee that the nursing home will provide good care in the future, but at least it gives you a picture of what has gone on previously.
Another useful tool for researching Colorado nursing homes and assisted living facilities is the Federal Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare website. Here is a link to that site: https://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare/. Medicare Nursing Home Compare allows you to research not only Colorado State health department deficiencies, but also staffing and quality of care for nursing homes in a given geographic region. You can use this tool to find all nursing facilities in your zip code or within a set number of miles from your or your loved one’s home. Medicare ranks nursing homes from 1 to five stars, with 5 stars being the best. This is a quick and easy way to get a general overview of how each nursing home compares. It also allows you to compare two or more nursing homes at once. It is perhaps a quicker and easier tool to use than the Colorado health department’s website, but it does not provide nearly as much detail regarding specific complaint investigations or survey results.
We recommend that you take the time to use both of these tools. We also recommend that you personally visit any nursing home or assisted living facility you are considering. You should be able to meet with an admissions person at the facility who can answer your specific questions and give you a tour of the facility. Use your eyes, ears and nose to get a sense of each facility you tour. Remember, sometimes the best care is not provided in the newest, fanciest buildings. Also remember that if it doesn’t smell good, it might not be good.
If in doubt, give us a call and we can help point you in the right direction.