Providing quality care requires expertise, high standards and dedication. A high rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is clear proof that the level of care offered at a senior care community is top-tier in the industry. But to truly appreciate a CMS 5-star rating, it helps to understand how the rating is determined.
A CMS 5-Star Rating Matters to a Lot of People
Residents and Families
Future residents and their families look for a high nursing home star rating as proof that the health care they’ll receive at a community will be high caliber. Current residents and families like to know the community’s standards have remained high, and they can feel secure if they need more health care extensive support.
Talented nursing professionals want to work with the best, and a CMS 5-star rating means they’ll join a team that holds high senior care standards and an environment and culture that provides opportunities to grow their skills. If you see a 5-star rating, you can feel confident that dedicated team members will work there, now and in the future.
Discharge Planners, Social Workers, Physicians
When referring patients, medical professionals rely on reports from third-party experts like the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to recommend communities that can provide the quality health care you need.
Insurance Companies, Accountable Care Organizations and Bundled Payment Providers
Seniors are more frequently receiving referrals through these group organizations, and as a rule, they only recommend communities rated three stars or above by CMS.
How Is a 5-Star Rating Calculated?
If you’re looking for a senior living community that provides quality care, but you don’t have a medical background, a jargon-free explanation of the excellence behind a CMS nursing home star rating can strengthen your confidence in the care you’ll receive at a community with the distinction. It’s an intricate calculation, so we’ve broken it down into the distinct components.
Three components that make up a CMS 5-star rating: The health inspections, quality measures and staffing standards.
To find this portion of the rating, scores from state-conducted health inspections are combined with a deficiency rating and the number of substantiated complaints. The scores of all senior care facilities in the state are then graded on a curve. The top 10% receive 5-star ratings. The bottom 20% receive 1-star ratings. The middle 70% are divided into three sections of 23.33% and awarded 2-star, 3-star and 4-star ratings based on their scores.
CMS uses ten quality measures to rate this portion of their overall score. These quality measures include seven long-term (chronic) categories and three short-term (post-acute) categories.
Long-Term Care Quality Measures:
- Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Decline (Is a long-term care resident’s ability to conduct fundamental self-care tasks worsening?)
- Mobility Decline (To what extent is a long-term care resident less active and mobile than when they started their stay?)
- Catheter (What percentage of long-term care residents require the use of a catheter?)
- High-Risk Pressure Ulcers (How many long-term care residents have experienced this type of injury?)
- Physical Restraints (Has the community had to confine long-term care residents?)
- Urinary Tract Infections (How many long-term care residents have experienced UTIs during their care at the community?)
- Moderate to severe pain (Have long-term care residents reported high levels of pain?)
Short-Term Care Quality Measures:
- Pressure Ulcers (How many short-term care residents have experienced this type of injury?)
- Moderate to Severe Pain (Have short-term care residents reported high levels of pain?)
- Delirium (To what extent have short-term care residents experienced an acutely disturbed state of mind?)
The reports of ADL decline and mobility decline are the most heavily weighted in the score (1.667 times the others). The total quality measures score is then calculated on a nationwide curve among senior care facilities. The top 10% receive 5-star ratings. The bottom 20% receive 1-star ratings. The middle 70% are divided into three sections of 23.33% and awarded 2-star, 3-star and 4-star ratings based on their scores.
This component specifically records the quantity and availability of the nursing staff. Other community team members, while important, aren’t measured here. CMS measures how many hours registered nurses spend with each resident each day, as well as how many hours the total nursing staff — registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse aides — spend with each resident each day. A senior care facility must meet or exceed the CMS staffing study thresholds (the staffing level CMS deems sufficient) to receive a 5-star rating.
Achieving a CMS 5-star rating is an impressive feat, and it’s a metric that matters to many seniors and their families when searching for a senior living community. Ask a community about their CMS rating to help ensure the health care you or your loved one can expect will be exemplary.
Most of us appreciate the importance of physical wellness both now and as we age. Intellectual wellness too has garnered more attention as we learn about the effects aging can have on our cognitive functions. But what many of us never consider is our emotional wellness and our ability to reduce anxiety, boost happiness, and enjoy sharper mental focus.
Yet, within the ever-growing list of apps with which you can decorate your home screen are a slew of mental health apps that can help all of us in our quest to achieve emotional wellness and improved mental health. Each of these apps can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or on Google Play. Our list of favorites includes:
6 Emotional Wellness Apps for Seniors
If you’re new to meditation, Headspace is a great place to start with easily digestible ten-minute sessions for beginners. You can then subscribe to thousands of hours of content available whenever you feel the need for Zen arise. The cool thing about Headspace is you can partner up with other Headspace users to encourage and motivate each other to stay on track to a happier, more focused mental state.
Ten Percent Happier
The idea behind Ten Percent Happier is that you don’t have to reorganize your life around meditation for it to make a difference. The ten percent number isn’t scientific. It’s meant to represent the idea of small, yet noticeable, improvements. Whereas Headspace features a single teacher, for all your meditations, Ten Percent Happier taps a multitude of experienced meditation experts with varied approaches to lead your sessions.
Another one of the best mental health apps for emotional wellness is Calm. It’s filled with hundreds of meditation practices and stories to help you sleep that are written and recorded by some of the top experts in cognitive behavior therapy. But Calm is much more than meditation. Calm also features sessions for training your mind to focus – including one led by NBA superstar Lebron James.
Happy Not Perfect
For a science-backed meditation and emotional wellness app, check out Happy Not Perfect featuring seven steps that are proven to boost happiness. But the best part? Each of the seven exercises are pretty fun. You may even find yourself looking forward to them every day. You can take advantage of up to five happiness workouts and five daily doses for free, but a subscription is needed to unlock more content.
Unlike the meditation apps listed above, Jour is a journaling app featuring daily reflections and “Journeys.” Daily reflections asks users to answer a series of questions about their feelings, what they’re excited about, a recent success and so on. “Journeys” are guided journals that include self-affirmations, dreams, travel, future goals, positivity, etc. Finally, those who are comfortable journaling on their own can do so in an open journal space. All entries are encrypted so your most private thoughts stay that way.
One of the most important factors to better mental and emotional wellness is a good night’s sleep. Relax Melodies lets you select the sounds and melodies you like and mix them together for a playlist. Easy, right? Plus, you can set it to turn off after a certain amount of time to save your battery. But it’s not just for sleep. Because you can customize it to your preferences, you can use it to set the mood during your next meditation or yoga session.
Wellness programs are important.
While apps are a convenient way to boost happiness and mental focus, they’re no substitute for more substantial wellness programs that help seniors cope with, and adapt to, life’s changes in a healthy, positive way. Research on healthy aging continually shows that seniors who embrace wellness as part of everyday life receive significant benefits. That’s why senior living communities that provide a robust wellness program, are attracting people who understand the importance of wellness on overall health, happiness, and quality of life.
Emotional wellness is also one of the 8 Dimensions of Wellness That Can Enhance Seniors’ Lives that Life Care Services® nurtures and promotes through the Life Care Services Lifestyle and Health Services wellness program. Emotional wellness support can take the form of grief and mental health counseling, peer groups, informal circles of friends, and interactions with staff members. For seniors, emotional wellness includes support for the challenges that come with aging and can result in increased comfort and strength in difficult times.
If you’re considering a senior living community and you understand the importance wellness plays to enjoying all that life has in store, find a community near you.
Predicting the future has always been a risky business. Ancient oracles whose predictions turned out to be false didn’t last long. TV meteorologists who forecast floods and snow days that never happen see their ratings fall. So while we’ve identified four senior living trends for 2021 and beyond, don’t throw us into a volcano if they don’t all pan out. After all, no one saw the pandemic coming. But how the senior living industry has responded to it has helped bring the future of senior living into focus. Let’s take a closer look.
The future of senior living is connected.
Zoom meetings, virtual tours, virtual Happy Hours, and video chats with friends and family have become standard operating procedure during the pandemic. That trend is likely to continue long after the coronavirus has been contained.
Virtual tours make it easy to visit a community from any location connected to the internet. Pre-recorded video tours and 360° virtual tours that allow you to “walk through” a community similar to Google street view maps are becoming more prevalent. Sales tools like OneDay videos allow communities to provide a richer picture of senior living to prospective residents. Zoom meetings and FaceTime chats have made connecting face-to-face as easy as answering your phone. And that’s just the beginning. New technology tools are on the horizon that will make life easier, safer and more engaging for residents:
- Motion controls or voice controls that allow residents to navigate communities without pressing buttons or grabbing handles.
- Voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) and Google Home help seniors remember their daily schedules, take medicine, or visit their doctor.
- Virtual reality systems that offer more immersive community tours, travel experiences (especially for those with mobility issues who are no longer able to travel), and reminiscent therapy (seniors can take a trip down memory lane, back to the places they used to live).
- Robotic pets that respond to sound, light, temperature and touch. PARO pet therapy is already in use in memory care neighborhoods across the country.
- GPS trackers that can locate dementia patients who wander; sensors that keep track of how active a resident is (if a person isn’t getting out of bed at a certain time, a notification is sent via text or phone); personal robots to track sleep patterns, heart rates and location.
- Wearable smart technology, like smartwatches, that allow seniors to monitor their health, track their fitness level, and contact emergency services automatically when the wearer is unresponsive or suffered a fall.
Telehealth: The doctor will see you now on screen.
Telehealth went from a nice-to-have service to a necessity in 2020. With seniors reluctant to risk their health by sitting in a waiting room with other people during a pandemic, telehealth became a safer, faster and more convenient option. Instead of having to drive to your doctor’s office, you could connect by video chat and get seen by your doctor without leaving home. Health care providers now offer online telehealth visits that are HIPAA-compliant and easy to use. Going forward, telehealth is poised to become more user-friendly and more widely adopted. More importantly, it may lead to more seniors being evaluated sooner at the first sign of symptoms.
A healthier future with a focus on wellness.
For some years now, senior living communities have been moving away from a care-first mindset to a wellness lifestyle, with options for care available. We don’t see this senior living trend changing. If anything, the focus on health and wellness will become stronger.
According to a survey by the International Council on Active Aging, 60% of respondents said their retirement community will be based in a wellness lifestyle by 2023. To accomplish this goal, five types of wellness programs will increase within communities:
- Education and lifelong learning
- Exercise (led by both instructors and technology)
- Health education and disease management
- Food and nutrition education and preparation
- Intergenerational programs linking youth and older adults
The future of senior living looks bright.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid changes in the senior living industry. Technology is playing a leading role in how seniors stay connected, both inside and outside retirement communities. High-rise communities may be next in line for change, with floors being divided up into small neighborhoods. Two things we don’t see changing are the sense of community senior living offers older adults and the focus on offering opportunities for a fulfilling lifestyle.
During the height of the pandemic, residents were grateful for the support of staff members who delivered meals to their door, along with grocery orders, prescriptions and anything else they needed. The camaraderie and creativity shown by staff and residents at LCS communities buoyed spirits and bonded neighbors. Communities stepped up to provide opportunities for engaging mind, body and spirit in new ways: online, on in-house TV channels, outdoors, and in large spaces where limited numbers could gather safely at a distance.
What the future of senior living will look like five to 10 years from now remains to be seen. But we’ll continue to adapt to the changing needs and wishes of older adults, and provide new opportunities for living life to the fullest.
Don’t let uncertain times stop your search for assisted living.
If you or someone in your family is considering an assisted living apartment or assisted living facility — you shouldn’t allow uncertainty to slow or stop your efforts to choose the best assisted living community. Why? For one thing, the clock is ticking on preserving your independence. Typically, the best assisted living communities have a waiting list for their assisted living homes and apartments. The average wait time is 6 months. And with the options of virtual tours and virtual visits available to you now, there’s no reason to let precious time slip away without making progress on your search.
It takes time to compare.
Choosing the assisted living community that’s right for your specific situation will likely take time for legwork and homework. Assisted living apartments, assisted living contracts and assisted living facilities, in general, can vary broadly. Some are home to just a small number of people, and others may have hundreds of residents. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to assisted living communities. They vary in size, appearance and the types of services they offer. There are also differences in the levels of assistance and care they offer and their associated costs.
Checking with your state or local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or visiting the websites of LeadingAge and Argentum (formerly the Assisted Living Federation of America), can help you develop a short list of assisted living communities in your area to compare. Once you have specific communities in mind, you’ll need to gather relevant information about each of them.
First comes research.
Gathering information starts by calling to begin learning about the community’s location, size, types of services and more. You can request brochures, a price list, a site map and floor plans. You may also request copies of all documents that will need to be signed before admittance, including the residency contract. You can review everything carefully, bearing in mind that marketing literature and a residency contract are different in nature. The contract is legally binding.
When you’re ready, you should visit the community. In fact, you should have several visits over the course of time. Some of these visits should be unannounced on a weekend or in the evening.
These visits, in addition to having your financial advisor and attorney review the occupancy contract, will provide vital information on which to base your comparisons. Then, of course, there are the costs of assisted living to consider. Medicare does not cover assisted living. Most people pay for these services out-of-pocket. And though some states cover certain services under Medicaid, for the majority of people, assisted living costs must be paid through private resources.
Questions in need of answers.
When evaluating options for assisted living, there are questions that most people will have concerning the physical accommodations, amenities, and the level of service and care available. Then there are questions that probe a little deeper about the staff, their training and level of experience, the availability of clinical professionals on-site, and more. Finally, there are questions germane to your personal situation. You should spend time considering all this with your family to develop a checklist to keep in a notebook and refer to during an on-site visit or virtual visit. Here is a printable checklist from AARP on what to ask when comparing assisted living communities.
For a more comprehensive overview of key points to consider, as well as specific questions to ask when searching for the right assisted living facility, refer to this Life Care Services article, How to Spot a Great Assisted Living Community.
Experience is everything.
If you believe that you or a loved one could benefit from the environment and services of an assisted living facility, don’t allow the uncertainty of any unexpected situation to squander your precious time. Call a Life Care Services community to arrange a personal virtual appointment. Life Care Services communities offer a continuum of care that will let you move in and out of care levels as needed, often at no additional cost. That’s guaranteed care for life. But if you prefer convenience and flexibility, and don’t find an entrance fee to be appealing, a rental retirement community may be the best choice for your needs.
As you explore your options, use our Find a Community locator tool. With over 140 rental and Life Care communities around the country, Life Care Services is sure to have the right option for you and your family.
Let us help you explore your living options. Experience is everything. Just contact us through our website, or call 515.875.4500