It is one of the most important decisions you can make in for a loved one, yet often it comes at a time, when there is not a lot of time to research your choices. Finding the right nursing home to trust with your parent, or even your spouse, can come up suddenly after an illness or set back that requires full-time care. Knowing what to look for can help narrow it down and help reduce the chances that they become another victim of nursing home negligence.
Where to start
Start with the basics and move on from there There are resources online to help get some basic data. www.medicare.gov has data on over 15,000 homes and a brochure called “Medicare’s Guide To Choosing a Nursing Home”. The data is based on inspections and should not be the end-all be-all in your decision-making, but it can help narrow it down from the one star ratings to the five star ratings.
Consider calling your ombudsman for your state. Long-term care ombudsmen are federally funded advocates and they have state rankings and other information not available on the Medicare site. They also may know of complaints that have been turned into their office.
Go for a visit, or two, or three
Of course, if at all possible, find a facility close by. One of the best ways to know how your loved one is being treated is to visit often and regularly. It is also important to physically check out the facility before hand and not just get the standard tour. Here are a few things to look for when you visit:
- Look at the residents. Do they seem alert, content? Although some are bound to be lethargic, it should not be the norm. Is the staff interacting with them in a friendly, kind manner? Keep your eyes peeled for anything that seems less than the standard you’re looking for.
- Take a few sniffs. Use your nose and check for urinary or feces smells near rooms or patients. If it is a common smell, then the patients may not be getting the attention they need. Note any other strange smells that seem out of place.
- Eat a meal. If you can, eat a meal and taste what they are feeding the patients. If possible, eat with the residents and strike up a conversation. Ask them about the facility.
The main idea is not to just see what they want you to see. Try going early or later in the day. How does the staffing look? Poke your nose where they may not think it belongs, it is better to be nosy now then sorry later.
Questions to Ask
There are many questions to ask at the facility. Focus on what type of staffing they have, what makes them unique over others in the area and specific questions for your loved one’s ailments. There are a couple key words in the nursing home industry that you can ask about:
- Consistent assignment. This means that the same doctors, nurses and other staff are assigned to the same patients. This allows for a closer bond and can help make the patients feel more comfortable.
- Person-centered care. Facilities that use this method allow residents to eat and sleep on their own schedule, instead of dictating for them. This allows more freedom and independence for the patients.
Even if you need to make a quick decision due to time restraints, you still have tools at your disposal. If you choose a facility and then feel you made an error or the facility is not living up to its standards, or you find one better suited to your needs, it is never too late to move your loved one. The most important aspect is making sure they are getting the best possible care.