Let’s Talk About Nursing Homes

New Jersey is home to 358 nursing homes that care for an average of 47,000 people on a daily basis. They are a critically important part of our healthcare system, especially with a growing senior population.

Nursing homes are feeling the impact of big changes happening in healthcare today. As our population ages, nursing homes are caring for older individuals with complex needs, and they’re focused on providing quality care as efficiently as possible.

An often overlooked fact is that New Jersey nursing homes rank high nationally on quality care standards. They’re also an important safety net with close to 60 percent of residents receiving Medicaid benefits for their nursing home stays. (That poses a real challenge for nursing homes, since Medicaid payments don’t cover the full cost of the care.)

Another trend: Patient stays are becoming shorter, and that shows that many nursing home residents are recovering better and returning back home more quickly. So yes, our nursing homes are making good on their goal of delivering efficient, quality healthcare.

N.J. nursing homes are outpacing the nation in the Nursing Home Compare report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nearly 60 percent of New Jersey’s nursing homes receive the highest ratings of four or five stars from the national report card, compared with 46 percent across the rest of the country.

New Jersey’s nursing homes score better than the national average in these key areas:

  • Fewer residents in N.J. nursing homes experience a fall that results in an injury.
  • Fewer residents report symptoms of depression.
  • Fewer residents report pain levels of moderate to severe.
  • Fewer residents receive an antipsychotic medication. (This is a sign that nursing homes are doing a good job stabilizing residents’ symptoms with other treatment and support beyond drugs.) 

My hats off to the staff at New Jersey nursing homes – roughly 55,395 strong – that provide this care. They include RNs, certified nursing assistants, therapists, social workers, dietitians and other team members who work in a coordinated fashion to provide optimal care.

And beyond the care they provide to our most frail, elderly individuals, nursing homes also play an important role in our state’s economy. Total economic benefits of this key segment of healthcare reaches $5.6 billion, including $2.2 billion in employee payroll.

If you know someone who may need nursing home care, here are some important things to know:

  • Medicare covers short-term nursing home stays following hospitalization, but generally doesn’t cover long-term care or custodial stays. That’s why a majority of N.J. nursing home residents, about 60 percent, “spend down” their assets and qualify for Medicaid for their nursing home care.
  • To find nursing homes in your area, talk to people you trust – your physician or other primary care provider, family and friends, your local senior center. Or, if you’re in the hospital, a social worker will help identify area nursing homes as part of your discharge planning.
  • CMS’ Nursing Home Compare provides additional tips and checklists. Find them at www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare.
  • Visit the nursing homes in your area, or have someone who cares about you visit them on your behalf. Take a tour, and talk to the staff about the treatments, social programs and other services they offer to help you, or your loved one, get better and stay well.

Aline Holmes, RN, DNP, is senior vice president of clinical affairs for the New Jersey Hospital Association, a healthcare trade organization committed to helping its members deliver high-value healthcare in their communities. This post originally appeared in The Star-Ledger. 

Icn Link About the Author

Aline Holmes, DNP, RN, is the senior vice president of clinical affairs for NJHA, as well as the program co-leader of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative. She leads the New Jersey Hospital Improvement Innovation Network under the national Partnership for Patients initiative. A U.S. Navy Nurse Corps veteran, Holmes completed her doctorate in nursing leadership at Rutgers University. 

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