The Nursing Home Compare star rating system assesses quality of care based on health inspections, staffing and quality of resident care measures. It examines important factors such as emergency preparedness, resident/staff ratios, re-hospitalization rates, falls and antipsychotic use.
After writing about turnover in my last column, I wondered what might happen if high marks were also awarded to facilities for strong staff retention, which has been positively correlated with better care (in this research, for example). From there, I began to imagine an entire rating system based on my view of long-term care.
I think of nursing homes holistically, as microcosms that thrive when each group of participants is thriving. The three groups in each long-term care world are the residents, staff and families. If these contingents are happy, it’s more likely that there will be filled beds, fewer lawsuits and reduced turnover expenses, consequently making CEOs happy.
The supplemental rating system would be based on quality of life rather than on quality of care and it would examine the quality of life of all the participants.
The ratings would review:
Staff turnover — To improve retention, facilities would invest in their staff members not just by reviewing their salaries (because nobody goes into direct care for the money), but also by investing in training, onboarding, teamwork, educational reimbursement and other initiatives (such as offering onsite childcare) that make the organization a good place to work over the long haul.
Resident independence and uniqueness — This facet focuses on how well residents are encouraged and assisted to maintain their interests and connections, reducing depression and creating a more lively, joyful environment. Greater opportunity for resident autonomy would result in decreased “behaviors,” reduced use of medications, improved staff retention, fewer empty beds and positive public relations when skillfully publicized. To accomplish this, therapeutic recreation would be elevated to its proper position as a crucial department charged with designing programs that enhance life for all within the home. A director of volunteers would be hired and supported, psychology services would be well-utilized and the social work department would be staffed in a way that allows social workers to exercise the skills they were trained for rather than being limited to charting admissions and facilitating discharges.