Matthew Gallardo
Matthew Gallardo

Customers that have gone through the process of finding a nursing home for a loved one can tell you how much of a challenge it can sometimes be. Making such an important decision for an ailing parent or loved one can be difficult and overwhelming. Knowing the right questions to ask and the right characteristics to look for are vital to making a better and more informed choice. Potential customers, however, may not consider whether a facility is for-profit or non-profit.

A number of national senior and healthcare advocacy groups like LeadingAge, Physicians for a National Health Program and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. have determined through extensive research that the type of nursing home ownership and sponsorship can affect the quality of care that facilities provide to their residents. It can even affect the rate of hospitalization and the potential discharge to home percentage.

Much of the statistical research consistently determined that non-profit nursing homes offered specific advantages including, but not limited to the following:

  • Fewer deficiencies in total
  • Fewer deficiencies causing harm or jeopardy to a resident
  • Fewer residents taking antipsychotic medications 
  • Lower prevalence of restraints 
  • Lower prevalence of pressure ulcers 
  • Lower hospitalization rates 
  • Higher staffing number of registered nurses
  • Higher staffing ratios overall 
  • Higher ranking on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Five-Star rating system
  • Higher discharge to home rates

I’m not suggesting that 100% of the time a non-profit nursing home is always a better choice; however, it’s hard to argue with these numerous sources and research supporting the facts. Non-profit retirement communities and nursing homes are not looking to create profit for shareholders or the executives running the company. If positive revenue exceeds operational costs, non-profits typically put that money back into the facility by making improvements to the physical plant, focusing on staff retention and increasing wages, and by looking for ways to improve policy and procedure to create a better overall living experience for residents.

Ultimately deciding on a nursing home for a parent or spouse needs to be a well-planned collaborative decision, which should include the perspective resident themselves. There are additional tools to evaluate the choice. In most states like Pennsylvania, Department of Health websites provide a full list of nursing homes county-by-county, which also includes detail about profit vs. non-profit status, licensed number of beds, plus survey results that lists specific deficiencies and the subsequent plan of correction. Potential customers should be encouraged to schedule visits and tour several nursing facilities.

Matthew J. Gallardo, BASW, CCP, is the Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways in Mechanicsburg, PA. He provides counseling services for seniors and their loved-ones as they face challenges during the journey of aging.