Critter Corner: Is Nursing Home Compare a Reliable Tool?

Dear Magic,

My father’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse and he will likely need skilled nursing home care in the near future. I found Nursing Home Compare in a Google search. Can I rely on this resource to help me find the right nursing home for my dad?


Bess Tome-Fordad


Dear Bess,

Nursing Home Compare (an online tool that is provided and regularly updated by the federal government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is an extremely helpful resource; however, there has been some criticism about the tool. Recently, Harvard researchers Brian E. McGarry, Ph.D., and David Grabowski, Ph.D, argued that Nursing Home Compare is lacking in information regarding short vs. long nursing home stays, facility features or amenities, care coordination, and the culture and care philosophies of the facilities.

McGarry and Grabowski also recommend adding new information to the comparison website, such as building age, availability of private rooms, photos of the facility, and reviews from residents or their family members to offer data more in line with consumers’ concerns.

The last recommendation they would make is advertising the tool better, since many seniors and their loved ones don’t know it exists. CMS may have to consider making it mandatory for Medicare patients to be informed of the tools during their discharge planning process, and that they have web-enabled technology to access the sites from their hospital rooms.

Despite the ratings and whether or not Nursing Home Compare provides sufficient information, nothing can substitute for visiting a nursing home in person. Every nursing home will have some positives and negatives. In Evan Farr’s book, The Nursing Home Survival Guide (available at, he provides a Nursing Home Evaluation Tool to help consumers
compare nursing homes during personal visits.

Hop this is helpful!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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