Issues with the German Nursing Home Care System

We analyzed data from AOK on nursing homes throughout Germany and found some issues with the nursing home care system. Here's an overview of how the system works and what we found.

von Sandhya Kambhampati


In Germany’s nursing homes, there are some issues that are going by unnoticed. Many old people are inadequately cared for. We wondered, what are the causes of these issues and why aren’t people getting proper care?

For background, the social care system and long-term care insurance in Germany covers the entire population. Similar to the process for health insurance, a percentage of one’s paycheck goes towards their pool of money for long-term care insurance. In general, this is a bit more than two percent of every paycheck. When an individual is in need of care, the insurance covers parts of the cost. Because the money caps at certain amounts depending on how much care you need, the long-term care insurance doesn’t cover all expenses. Often, when someone decides to go to a nursing home, the first instinct is to look at the price or go to the closest nursing home.

Depending on the type of care that is needed, the costs can differ drastically between care levels. Typically care level three requires the most attention and can therefore be more expensive – on average costing more than 3000 Euro a month. About 50 percent of this has to be paid by the patients themselves.

But deciding on a final place, or the place where one may send their loved one to get proper care, can be difficult and cost should not be the main deciding factor, especially when there are other issues happening in these homes going unnoticed.

CORRECTIV spoke last year with hundreds of people, including politicians, authorities, nursing home owners, caretakers, patients, scientists about the issues with the infrastructure of nursing homes throughout Germany. Our reporters requested the inspection reports from the German nursing authorities and found many of the nursing homes received passing grades. Yet, some of the nursing homes that were considered to be „very good“ had major scandals, sometimes just briefly before they received these grades.

Over the past year, our data team looked through data on 13,000 nursing homes throughout Germany and found sixty percent of nursing homes standing out negatively in key areas. Homes received passing grades, even though their inspection reports suggested that some had issues with people suffering in some way.

Why This is Important

From this research, the book „Jeder pflegt allein – Wie es in deutschen Heimen wirklich zugeht“ came about. The book explores the poor working conditions of German nurses, the limited financing and the bureaucratic obstacles of German nursing homes. Four nurses tell their stories and their experiences give insight into the lives of the more than one million people working in the German nursing home industry – and into the different shortcomings of the system. The book also includes tips on how you can choose proper care. You can purchase the book here:

Together with Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), reporters went undercover with hidden cameras and show first-hand how poor the conditions of some nursing homes are. The reporter, in his late sixties and a cancer survivor himself, didn’t get the medical treatment his doctor had instructed the nursing home to do, didn’t get any additional care and wasn’t really looked after.

Since June 3, our full report can be found here. The platform is available in German and English and allows people to compare information on each nursing home. The website also includes links to the original transparency reports and to additional inspection reports from the public inspection authority „Heimaufsicht“. We also included tips for questions one should ask when visiting a nursing home. The platform is also linked to the German equivalent of MuckRock (FragDenStaat.De) and allows readers to request their own inspection reports from their nursing home authorities. 

For Germany, it’s the first platform on nursing homes combining available data with journalistic context so people get an idea what they can and need to do before deciding where to go for their final move. We hope people will contribute their reports to the platform and using that data, we will be able to tell more stories.