Deciding to place a loved one into a nursing home is a very serious decision. You will be entrusting their daily care and their health and well being to an entirely new set of medical professionals. You want to do your best to choose a home where the care will be superior and the living accommodates comfortable and sufficient. As a social worker, I am reguarly asked by clients about how to care for aging parents. There can be a lot of family conflicts between siblings around the best way to handle the situation when someone is no longer able to live on their own. Here are some things to think about as you make your selection on nursing homes.
Never chose a nursing home based on how well you are treated by the admission staff. They will only minimally interact with your loved one and have no say in the day to day management of the home. They are strictly there to show the family around and take your application.
Ask your friends for recommendations. There is nothing better than a good recommendation from someone who already has relatives living at that home. Find out what activities their parents participate in at the facility. Would your loved one be a good fit here? Remember, that some people can have their needs met at an assisted living facility depending upon their health issues. Inquire with staff if your relative or parent can be accepted at an assisted living facility before you determine that they need to be in a nursing home.
Speak to residents who are already living there. As you are shown around, say hello to people. Notice if they are clean. You will be shown empty rooms. Ask to see inhabited rooms. They should be neat and clean and have sufficient space for your loved one to bring some of their own furniture and other possessions. If you will be moving into a double room ask who the roommate will be and what recourse your loved one will have should they not get along. Private rooms are nice but often too expensive. There should be a resident’s council that meets at least monthly if not weekly. During these meetings the residents get a chance to voice their feelings about how the home is being run and to advocate for changes. If there is not resident council, be suspicious that the home is not in tune to the needs of the residents.
Stay during a meal. Eat the food. Meet the head of food service and make sure any special eating habits or prescribed diets can be accommodated. Is the dining room a pleasant place to be? Is it light and airy or dark and dingy? Do the residents happily interact with others during meals? Are the people who need assistance to eat getting the attention they need? Do you see people who might be friends for your loved one? Try to ask around about the food to other residents. Meals are an important part of the day and nutritious food has a positive effect on one’s health and state of mind.
Look at the facility itself. Are there sufficient common areas? Does the facility provide activities like arts and crafts, dancing and exercise? There should be a full time activities director. If your loved one has an activity they enjoy speak to the activities director and make sure the home can accommodate their needs.
A well staffed home has one social worker for every 50 residents. The social worker will be the staff member that families most often turn to when they have a question or concern. Social workers are responsible for all of the non-medical needs of the patient. Take time to sit down with the social worker without the admissions officer and ask any questions you may have. And once you chose a home make sure to keep in touch with the social worker to check on the well being of your loved one.
Last, but certainly not least, you want to choose a home with a stable staff. Meet the administrator and the DON – Director of Nursing. They should be in their positions for a significant period of time. New administrators and DONs are constantly firing staff and making new rules leaving the home in a state of confusion and transition. A stable, efficient environment will be the most comforting and secure for your loved one.
Expect that your loved one may not want to lose their independence and move into a facility. This can be scary for many elderly people and bring up a lot of fear. Some describe it as reminding them once again of freshman year of college where you get a roommate and don’t know anyone. This can be a big adjustment for someone who has lived on their own for years. Visit someone in a facility and you will make their day.