Can Yelp help Valley Center seniors avoid nursing homes with histories of elder abuse or neglect? Most residents of San Diego County think of Yelp as a crowd-sourced set of reviews for businesses like restaurants or retail establishments. However, according to a recent article in The New York Times, Yelp also might be able to provide helpful information about nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to patients and their families who are looking for places with high ratings.
Given that nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem across Southern California and throughout the state, using an unlikely source such as Yelp to find reviews can not hurt. As the article points out, “gerontologists at the University of Southern California have been looking into Yelp nursing home reviews and think they make a useful addition to the homework any prospective resident or family member needs to undertake.”
Using Crowd-Sourced Information to Choose a Skilled Nursing Facility
In addition to Yelp, there are other platforms with crowd-sourced information about nursing homes, including social media sites like Facebook, as well as the website Caring.com. None of these websites provide any official information about the facilities, and they do not conduct investigations into allegations of elder abuse or neglect. Rather, they provide reviews from members of the public, and it is up to the user to sort through comments and to decide which are relevant. Why, then, are sites like Yelp useful to the public? According to the article, this type of crowd-sourced information is useful largely because “the supposed gold standard, the five-star ratings on the federal government’s own Nursing Home Compare website, remains so faulty.”
Seniors who need nursing home care, as well as their families, often can not get the type of information they need from Nursing Home Compare. The website became available back in 1998, and it began using a “starred ranking system” as of 2009, yet the information is not easily processed by seniors and their families.
Problems with Federal Nursing Home Compare Site
There are two major problems with the federal Nursing Home Compare site, according to the article.
The first issue is that the information is not always easy to find. For example, while “the site contains a trove of information about nursing homes,” it is only accessible “for those willing to click through to findings like hours of staff time per resident per day, deficiencies discovered during the most recent inspections, and how many residents have bedsores and other indications of poor care.” As such, sites like Yelp may be able to provide helpful information that is at once difficult to find on the federal website.
The second issue that Nursing Home Compare shows ratings for nursing homes that are based on more than inspection records. In addition to information about on-site inspections, the ratings are also acquired through information about staffing numbers and quality of care. What is wrong with these metrics? They are not objective—instead, these measures “are reported by the homes themselves.”
Yelp ratings for nursing homes tend to look much different than those on Nursing Home Compare, and they may be able to help families better assess whether a facility can provide quality care for a loved one. In order for Yelp to be even more helpful, more consumers would need to start reviewing nursing homes. The more reviews, the more information.
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(image courtesy of Parker Boyd)