Choose a home wisely

By Stephen Nohlgren
Published August 28, 2007

Before you commit to a nursing home choice, do your research. 

- Use Florida's star rating system to pick out several possibilities that give good care.

- Focus on locations that make it easy for family and friends to visit. Regular visits and good relations with staff are critical to getting good care.

- Make at least one visit to meet staff, get a tour and ask questions. Try to also make an unannounced visit. Wander around as if you belong there. Are residents dressed and clean? Are there bad smells? Do residents seem happy? Ask residents about the food and social activities. Is the staff interacting with the residents?

Hospital discharge

Often people need a nursing home in a hurry because a loved one is about to be discharged from the hospital. This can hinder careful selection. Hospital social workers may steer you to nursing homes that don't fit your circumstances.

If you need extra time to find an appropriate home, you can often gain a few days by appealing your hospital discharge. Rules for appealing are found in the "Important Message from Medicare" that should be included in your hospital admission packet. If not, ask hospital employees to give you a copy.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy offers help understanding discharge rights. Consult www.medicareadvocacy.org , then click on "Info by topic," then "Acute Hospital Care."

Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at (727) 893-8442 or nohlgren@sptimes.com.