In 2010, the Seattle Times published a report that gets mentioned on this site, in the Aging Options Resource Guide and by Rajiv Nagaich fairly often. That report, “Seniors for Sale,” concerned the treatment that elderly individuals received in Seattle/Tacoma area Adult Family Homes. The conclusion of that report was that individuals needed to do their research before placing a loved one in a facility. The problem of course is that unless you know where to go it can be difficult to get the information you need. This was borne out when Michael J. Berens, the investigative journalist for the piece was frustrated in his attempts to get accurate information from DSHS about a facility that he knew was being sued for negligence.
So if the investigative journalist who has the time and training can get stymied, how does the average person find information they can use to make accurate decisions about an institution? A step in the right direction is a new database from ProPublica. ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism, has created a tool so that anyone can research more than 58,000 nursing home inspection reports from the past three years. The data comes from CMS files. The tool, called Nursing Home Inspect, allows anyone to search and analyze the details from those inspections. ProPublica also published a tip sheet so that individuals have a better understanding about how to use its extensive database.
ProPublica and the American Health Care Association caution people that the reports cited in Nursing Home Inspect are a snapshot of a facility. You can find a list of facilities that have received awards from the American Health Care Association for their efforts on improving care. Keep in mind, there’s no substitute for doing your own research, touring the facility and speaking with the staff and residents. The two resources listed are just two tools in a tool box of resources.