How to Choose A Nursing Home

You’ve made a difficult decision already. Your aging loved one has daily needs that you cannot meet either because the care is more than you can provide or you do not have the skills, tools needed to care for them competently,  and it is in their best interest, and yours, that you make that very difficult decision to move them into a long-term care facility.

But now you’re faced with a new problem. How can you know if you’re choosing a good facility? There are many great places that provide long-term care, but the sad reality is that nursing home abuse is extremely common. It’s reported that around 2/3rds of nursing home staff members have committed abuse sometime in the past year. This guide will help you recognize potential red flags during the process of searching for a nursing home so your loved one can get the compassionate, knowlegeable, and skilled care they deserve.

Establish a budget

Nobody wants to be deterred by the financial burden of paying for high-quality care, but the reality is that you only have so much money to spend. Talk to your spouse, family members, and your loved one themself about what you can afford before you start looking. The last thing you want is to find the perfect facility only to realize you can’t afford it. A 2021 survey found that the average monthly cost for nursing home care is between $7,000 and $9,000 per month.

Consider what specific services are needed

Your loved one’s medical conditions have to be taken into consideration when determining which facility might be a good fit.  Some facilities will not accept residents with certain medical conditions because they do not have the training or equipment to help residents with those medical conditions. Interviewing the facility about the needs of your loved ones, early on will help you to determine if the facility is the best place for your loved one to reside.

Consider the facility’s location

You likely want to choose a nursing home for your loved one that’s within easy visiting distance. If you manage to find one, that’s great! But if you can’t, you’ll be faced with another difficult decision. Do you choose a facility that doesn’t wow you because it’s close, or do you choose a better home that’s further away, even if it means you can’t visit as often. Think long and hard about this, and discuss it with your family members, especially your elderly loved one. Sometimes it’s worth visiting a little less often if it means your loved one will be happier overall.

Check for reviews of potential nursing homes

To decide if you’d like to visit a facility in person, first look at any review you can find online. These can range from Google reviews to sites like Care Compare which offer ratings on issues such as staff turnover, quality of care, and thoroughness of health inspections. These reviews don’t necessarily need to dictate your ultimate decision, but if you see recurring complaints, take extra care to investigate those in your next step.  When you visit a facility, there is usually a bronze placard that states who the ombudsman is for that one along with their contact information.  You might one to go a step further and contact the ombudsman and ask what type of complaints do they hear about this facility.  An ombudsman is your advocate in a facility, so many complaints go straight to them prior to filing a complaint with adult protective services or the state. 

Visit potential facilities in person

This is arguably the most important step. Research will only get you so far in understanding what living in a long-term care facility will actually look like for your loved one. In addition to getting an overall feeling for the nursing home, some key questions to ask about or investigate include:

  • Trying the food – Don’t just ask what’s on the menu for the week. Sit in the cafeteria and try it yourself. While you eat, observe the patients who are eating at the same time you are. Do they seem happy? Are they engaged with staff members? And of course, does it taste good? Dining is a fundamental part of the human experience, and it should be pleasurable for your loved one.
  • Talk to staff members – Don’t just talk to the facility administrators, because they aren’t the ones performing daily tasks for patients. Talk to staff members in all areas. From the cooking staff to activity managers to the nurses who maintain patient hygiene, there are many different people who will engage with your loved one on a daily basis and be partially responsible for their well-being.
  • Ask about activities – Well-being in a nursing home means more than just having clean clothes and decent food. Your loved one should feel comfortable socializing, being creative, and engaging in hobbies they’ll find enjoyable and interesting. See what’s on the schedule for the week. Ask current residents what they like to do best.
  • Pay attention to patient hygiene and grooming – While you explore the facility, keep an eye on if patients seem to be cared for. Look at their clothing, their hair, and their fingernails. Take note of any body odors you encounter. Poor hygiene is a problem on its own, but it can also suggest other issues with staff negligence.

Visit multiple care facilities

If you find a facility that seems like a good match right away, you might be tempted to make the commitment quickly, especially if you have a busy schedule. But if you aren’t familiar with nursing homes, you’ll have no basis for comparison. You might visit a facility that seems great until you visit another that illuminates some glaring problems with the first one. Try to visit at least three before making a final decision.

Make a second visit

If you’re coming close to a decision, visit the potential nursing home once again. Go on a different day at a different time, when there’s likely to be a different set of staff members, a different schedule of activities, and a new menu. Ask yourself if everything still feels consistent from your first visit. Remember that even if you visit thoroughly, that experience will never compare to your loved one spending nearly all of their time there. You don’t want to find out that a facility encourages visits on a certain day of the week when conditions are generally better than other days.

Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst is here to help you

No matter how hard you try to choose a quality nursing home, there will always be a risk that life for your loved one will not go as well as they deserve. If you discover evidence that your loved one has been abused or neglected by their nursing home staff members, call us today for a free consultation. If we decide we are able to work together, we promise to work hard to achieve a positive outcome for you and your loved one.

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