Choosing a Wisconsin Nursing Home

Making the decision to transition an elderly loved one into a nursing home or other assisted-care facility is never easy, but there are resources to help ensure that you find a safe care center that caters to your loved one’s unique needs.

Based on our extensive experience with Wisconsin elder neglect and nursing home abuse cases, the Madison attorneys at Boller & Vaughan offer the following tips and tools to help you and your family make an informed decision.

Evaluate Your Loved One’s Needs

Elder care spans a range of facilities and services. The first step in choosing the right care center is identifying your loved one’s physical and mental health needs and selecting the right type of facility to address those needs.

Many people use “nursing home” as a blanket term for any facility that provides residency and ongoing care for the elderly. But there are different types of elder care centers that offer varying levels of services.

Nursing homes, for example, offer around-the-clock care and must meet state and federal standards. Wisconsin law defines a nursing home as: “…a place where 5 or more persons who are not related to the operator or administrator reside, receive care or treatment and, because of their mental or physical condition, require access to 24-hour nursing services, including limited nursing care, intermediate level nursing care and skilled nursing services.”

Nursing homes provide robust services for those who need help with daily personal care (bathing, meals, medication management, etc.), in addition to skilled nursing and select medical treatments. Nursing homes are often ideal for individuals with mobility limitations, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or those who require specialized medical therapy.

An assisted-living center or community-based residential facility (CBRF) may be a better option for seniors who are still mobile but require minor assistance with certain tasks or aspects of personal care. It’s important to note that assisted-living facilities and CBRFs are held to different standards of care than nursing homes. For more information about different types of elder-care centers, please see our Nursing Homes vs. Other Care Facilities page.

Understand Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

Regardless of mental or physical ability, all Wisconsin nursing home residents have basic rights guaranteed to them under federal and state laws. Nursing homes are required to list and provide new residents with a copy of these rights.

Under federal law, nursing home residents’ rights include but are not limited to:

  • The right to be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect
  • The right to be informed about services and fees before entering the nursing home
  • The right to be informed about your medical condition and your medications, and to see your own doctor
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to manage your own money, or to appoint someone else you trust to do it for you
  • The right to have a choice over your daily schedule
  • The right to express grievances about nursing home care and medical treatment without fear of discrimination or retaliation

Furthermore, nursing home residents have the right to NOT be:

  • Humiliated, harassed or threatened
  • Abused physically, mentally or sexually
  • Exploited financially
  • Restrained physically or chemically
  • Secluded from other residents involuntarily
  • Discriminated or retaliated against if they make a complaint regarding care or contact the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long-Term Care ombudsman to advocate on their behalf

For more about nursing home residents’ rights in Wisconsin, please see our Wisconsin Nursing Home Laws and Regulations page.

Wisconsin Nursing Home Resources

There are a number of national and Wisconsin-specific tools designed to help you find a safe nursing home that offers the specific services your loved one needs:

  • Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website: Nursing Home Compare offers detailed information about every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services nursing home guide: Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home explains how to find and compare nursing homes, and addresses alternatives to nursing home care.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Health Services website: The WDHS’s Finding and Choosing a Nursing Home page provides a state nursing home directory as well as links to consumer information reports about specific facilities.
  • The WDHS Care Options website: The WDHS’s Care Options page includes a county-by-county breakdown of nursing homes and other types of care centers.
  • The Consumer Voice nursing home guide: Formerly known as the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, The Consumer Voice offers a Choosing a Nursing Home publication that includes tips about selecting a nursing home and resources for evaluating nursing homes.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association’s care providers guide: On its Choosing Care Providers page, the Alzheimer’s Association provides recommendations and resources regarding long-term care for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
  • S. News and World Report nursing home rankings: U.S. News and World Report regularly reviews and updates its rankings of more than 15,000 nursing homes in its Best Nursing Homes report.

Also check out our How to Find a Good Nursing Home page, which features details to look for in a long-term care facility as well as suggested questions to ask care center representatives while you’re assessing your options.

Protecting the Rights of Wisconsin Nursing Home Residents

Unfortunately, elder neglect and abuse can occur at even the most reputable nursing homes and assisted-living centers. The Madison lawyers at Boller & Vaughan are dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home residents throughout Wisconsin.

If you believe an elderly loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse in a nursing home or other care center, please call us today at 608-268-0268 or contact us online. Our attorneys have a proven record of success in nursing home abuse cases, and we offer free initial consultations to help you and your family understand your options.


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