Seniors, people with disabilities and families trying to choose a nursing home can get help from a source that usually isn’t involved in consumer ratings: the federal government.
Since 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has offered on its “Nursing Home Compare” website a five-star rating system based on three separate factors: the results of three years of annual health inspections; data on staffing levels of nurses and nursing aides; and a combination of nine different quality measurements, such as information about residents’ health and mental status.
Nearly one-third of the New Jersey nursing homes listed on the site – 114 of 364 — received five-star ratings. However, the vast majority of them had less-than-perfect scores in one or more of the three factors used to determine the overall rating.
A select few — eight nursing homes in the entire state — received five stars for each factor. Two others just missed a perfect score by having four stars in their combined quality rating.
A 2012 NJ Spotlight analysis found that both highly and poorly rated nursing homes were spread geographically across the state. But the very best were all in the state’s northern and central regions.
Some of these highly rated facilities aren’t traditional nursing homes, even though they perform many of the functions of nursing homes. They include two transitional units within hospitals (in Bayonne and Hoboken), as well as two rehabilitation centers (Barnert Subacute in Paterson and St. Lawrence Rehab in Lawrenceville).
All four of the all-five-star facilities that are located in continuing care retirement communities are operated by nonprofits.
The federal rating site can be useful in finding what problems nursing homes have faced. The nonprofit news site ProPublica compiled a data base, current through June, based on information in the inspection reports.
The federal site also is a powerful tool that CMS can use to direct the priorities of nursing homes. For example, CMS incorporated information about the percentage of patients who are given antipsychotic medications into the ratings.
But CMS cautions that the ratings are only one tool available to help choose a nursing home. It recommends talking with doctors about available options and consulting other resources, such as the Aging & Disability Resource Connection of New Jersey website.
Making a number of visits to nursing homes and talking with residents about their experiences can also be helpful.
The following list begins with the eight nursing homes that earned across-the-board five stars, in alphabetical order.
They are followed by the two facilities that received five stars for inspection reports and staffing levels, but earned just four stars in their quality ratings. The quality scores received slightly less weight than the other two factors in determining nursing homes’ overall ratings.
Across-the-Board Five-Star Nursing Homes
• Barnert Subacute Rehabilitation Center LLC, Paterson.
• Bayonne Hospital Transitional Care Unit, Bayonne.
• Continuing Care at Seabrook, Tinton Falls
• Reformed Church Home, Old Bridge
St. Catherine of Siena, Caldwell.
• St. Lawrence Rehab Center, Lawrenceville.
• Stonebridge at Montgomery Health Care Center, Skillman.
Nursing Homes with Five Stars, Except for Four Stars in One Category
• Berkeley Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Berkeley Heights.
• St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly, Totowa.