Choosing a nursing home for a loved one is an important decision and should be carefully considered. It is important for families to take the time to explore nursing home options and to carefully assess the nursing home facilities to choose the best care for your loved one. Below are some steps designed to help families in choosing a nursing home.
1. Identify Nursing Homes in the Area
The first step in choosing the right nursing home is to identify all the possible nursing home options in the area. Asking friends, family, and other people you trust is an excellent way to begin the search for possible options, especially if they have had personal contact with the nursing home. Doctors and hospitals can also help identify nursing home options that provide the type of care a loved one may require.
Another option is using the internet to locate nursing home facilities. The Medicare website has a locator for nursing homes and even provides some comparisons of nursing homes – an important benefit highlighted in the next step below.
2. Research the Quality of Care Provided by the Nursing Home
Using comparisons like those found on the Medicare and Medicaid websites can be a very helpful starting place for gathering information on nursing homes and the quality of care provided. You can use this information along with information from other sources like the long-term care ombudsman. Many facilities provide survey results that can give insight into the facility’s care. In California, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) also has many resources for choosing a nursing home and evaluating the various available facilities. (visit http://www.canhr.org/)
Other sites that allow consumers to post reviews, like Yelp.com, can also be an important way to compare nursing homes. While best known for its restaurant reviews, Yelp also includes reviews of skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers.
3. Visit the Nursing Homes in Person
After doing ample research, visit the nursing home. Nursing homes will schedule tours for prospective residents. While there, pay close attention to the cleanliness of the facility, and the appearance of the residents. Make note of what the residents are doing and how they look. Are they engaged in activities? Is there evidence of neglect? Is there enough staff to attend to the patients? Ask about patient-to-caregiver ratios so you can compare it with other nursing homes.
Other things to consider include how the facility provides for social, religious, recreational, or cultural needs, and the types of meals they prepare. You may have the opportunity to have a meal during your visit, which will allow you to sample a meal and also observe how the residents are treated during meal times.
Before leaving, find out who you can call if you have additional questions. Then, make a second unplanned visit at a different time or on a different day. An unplanned visit will allow you to observe the nursing home and its residents on a “normal” day.
4. Choose a Nursing Home
Making notes during the first three steps can help families go back and carefully look at the information gathered to make a decision. If more than one facility fits the needs of your loved one, then consider cost and what is most important to the family.
Once you choose a nursing home, an agreement will need to be signed. It is important to have an elder law attorney review this agreement to make sure there are no hidden provisions, like holding a child responsible for non-payment, or a minimum number of months before a resident can apply for Medicaid.
These steps will allow families to make the best nursing home choice possible. Although many families find themselves in sudden need of a nursing home facility after hospitalization, most have time to make preparations. If time is not a factor, following these steps can help to avoid making a decision that is not best for your loved one in need of care. Any long-term care decision is made best when families are armed with as much information as possible.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please contact me.