Choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility is an important decision that is often put off until failing health or another concern makes it a priority. Whether you are looking for a home for yourself or a loved one, you can remove some of the stress from making the decision by planning ahead rather than waiting until it becomes a time sensitive issue.
Try these tips to help as you select a nursing home or other facility:
• Location – Think about the distance friends and family will need to travel in order to visit or help with decision-making. Also consider whether the resident will be close enough to continue church and other current activities.
• Personnel and credentials – Make sure the home meets all state legal requirement, has passed all inspections, and has appropriate staff including doctors, nurses, and therapists.
• Services provided – Check to see if Social Services workers are on staff. Check out the menu for meals and find out where meals are served and how specially prescribed diets are accommodated.
Determine whether residents have a good “neighborhood” experience to socialize with others. Stop and listen to see if noise levels are acceptable.
• Special needs – If you need access to special equipment or treatments, such as a ventilator to help with breathing, check to be sure everything you need will be available on site.
• Safety – Ask about security and emergency plans. Look for smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
Check to see if hallways and common areas are easy to navigate, especially for residents using wheelchairs or with walking difficulties. Think about how far it is from patient rooms to dining and activity areas.
• Special services – Ask about services for residents including a hair salon, bank, or gift shop. Also check into the availability of transportation for shopping and other activities.
• Home-like atmosphere – Think about whether residents seem to be happy in their surroundings. Are they involved in activities and do they have access to friends to socialize? Are residents clean, dressed, and alert?
Do staff members know the names of residents and interact with them? Are rooms a comfortable temperature and do individual bedrooms have their own heat and AC controls?
• Activities – Are there things to do for people with a variety of interests? Are exercise equipment and programs available and if so, who leads them?
Do residents have access to religious services and activities, either on-site or through provided transportation? Does the facility have a computer room, library, craft area, work space with tools, or game room?
• Nursing care – Think about the levels of nursing care provided. Ask about staffing levels, how many RNs and other caregivers are available at all times, and how medications are managed. Also find out whether special treatments are available including speech, physical, and occupational therapy.
• Finances – Check to see if the facility accepts Medicare and Medicaid, ask about extra costs for additional levels of care, and find out if any fees are refundable. Also check to see if the facility has money management services available to help residents with their money.
Common sense can go a long way in helping make a decision about long-term care. Trust your instincts if you don’t feel the facility is kept clean or if there are strong odors.
Access the noise levels in different parts of the facility. If possible, visit more than once and at different times of day and be sure to ask for a copy of the Patients Rights document.
Get advice from people you know who have had personal experience with nursing homes in your area. There are also many agencies that can help you through the process of choosing a long-term care facility.
Check the listing on the Medicare website for contact information in your area.
About.com Senior Living. How to Find the Right Nursing Home. Sharon O’Brien. Web. January 25, 2012
Medicare. Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home, page 9. Web. January 25, 2012.
Nursing Home Guide. How to choose a nursing home. Web. January 25, 2012.
Medicare. Nursing Homes. Web. January 25, 2012.
Reviewed January 26, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith