How to find a good nursing home for your aging mom and dad

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - George Macias' family looked hard for a quality health care facility in April.

George Macias' family looked hard for a quality health care facility in April. But after George left the Cherry Hills Community and Rehabilitation Services with a protective ankle bracelet and was found deceased several hours later, families in the community wonder if they can find a safe health care facility.

Cherry Hills refused to say how Macias, an Alzheimer's patient, was able to leave.

When a family member like Macias falls into severe dementia or Alzheimer's, families often need someone else's help to care for that person.

The University of Kansas Medical Center said there are some things to do to help families make an educated choice, so families are less likely to find themselves in the painful position as the Macias family.

"You put your trust in somebody and then this happens," George's son, Doug Macias, said shaking his head.

Macias said his father had repeatedly tried to leave the Cherry Hills Community and Rehabilitation Services on NE 79th Terrace in the Northland.

It is why experts suggest when there are specific needs, like Alzheimer's, to ask the health care facility its patient to staff member ratio, how often its patients need to go to the hospital and ask friends and family who've used the facility.

But perhaps the best, most unbiased review is the medicare.gov website.

41 Action News checked and found state inspectors ranked Cherry Hills Community's overall score a one, "much below average."

41 Action News did a story on the same facility under different ownership in 2009, at which time it also scored the overall lowest score of a one.

It's why experts also suggest families do scheduled and surprised visits.

"It's just to see how welcoming they are. Is it easy to find staff who are willing to help?" Colleen Dittrich of the University of Kansas Medical Center said. "I would be looking for someone who would be open to anything I fired at them because it's my loved one and we're making an important decision."

The Kansas City metro area has more than 60 nursing home or assisted living facilities; a lot of choices.

One owner of several assisted living facilities said the first impressions a family has of staff and of the nursing home director can often be the most revealing.

To see how nursing homes rank, log on to: http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.aspx

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