Nursing homes provide care to those who don't need to be in a hospital but require much more care than can be provided at home. Most associate a nursing home with caring for the elderly but they can also serve those who need longer term care after surgery.
Some nursing homes are designed to be more like a hospital, while others are set up to feel more like home. Both types of facilities often have separate departments or sections for those who need extensive memory care (Alzheimer's and dementia) and both have nursing staff on hand 24/7. Some will have doctors visit patients onsite, while others will take the residents to the physician.
Deciding to send mom or dad to a nursing home is not easy, especially given the high rates of elder abuse as of late. You can set your mind at ease by diligently researching each facility. Speak with your parent's care providers about places they would suggest. If you have a friend or relative that has already gone through the process, ask them what facilities they would recommend and why. You can use the names they provide as a list to begin your research.
The 11 factors to consider
- Ask to see a current inspection report and certification. If the nursing home receives any funding from Medicare or Medicaid Services, they will need to pass an inspection to be certified.
- Ask the facility what services they offer and consider what is most important to you (e.g. being close to friends and family, religious affiliation, hospice care, or other special care needs like memory care).
- Check with the facility about their policies on pairing roommates or obtaining a private room.
- Ask when, where and what types of activities are provided.
- Pay attention to sounds you hear. You want to know how the staff responds to moans or calls for help and how they speak to the resident as they respond.
- Some light odors are inevitable and unavoidable in a nursing home because many long-term care residents may be incontinent. However, if the smell of stale urine is particularly pungent, it's a sign the facility is not properly cleaning.
- Ask nursing staff if they have worked any overtime or double shifts recently. If they have, it may be a sign the facility is understaffed which can affect the quality of patient care.
- Don't be afraid to listen in on aides, orderlies and nurses. Specifically, listen for how they treat one another. If they are rude to each other, they will be rude to your parent.
- Residents should have music and television programs geared towards them.
- Watch how staff interact after routine care is complete. It is not a good environment if they stand around and gossip rather than interact with the residents.
- While it may be difficult to think about, you will also want to ask how the staff handles a fall, how they prevent or care for bedsores and how often they provide routine changes to resident briefs or provide other personal care needs, such as bathing.
Once you have made a choice, it is important that you check in on your parent from time-to-time. Having a meal with them will also help you determine whether they are continuing to be properly cared for. Pay close attention to the food the nursing home serves. If you can taste and enjoy it, your parent will too. Additionally, many facilities will have special menus and decorations around the holidays to lift the spirits of their residents as well as make it warm and inviting for their families to visit.