How to choose a Nursing Home
It Takes a Village
Finding the right nursing home for your parent or loved one
By Beth Chapman, administrator, North County
Moving into the nicest, most well-managed nursing home can be a crisis for the person moving in and for the whole family. Magnify that by a hundred if the nursing home proves to not meet your loved one’s needs, perhaps in ways that are perceived as traumatic, and the individual has to be moved again.
Don’t wait until an emergency, like a broken hip, has you on the run to find a nursing home fast. If you’ll be having surgery at some point in the future and will need rehabilitation time in a nurse home, start now to look for the right one. If you have a loved one who’s frail, needs assistance, and has no spouse or whose spouse isn’t strong enough to provide the next level of assistance, such as helping the person bathe or get from bed to chair, start looking around at the available nursing homes in your area. You don’t have to make a big thing about it; just know what your options are. That way, if something does happen—a slip, a progressing disease—you’ll already know where to turn, and you can reassure your loved one that you have already thoroughly researched local nursing homes and found this one to be just what’s needed.
And that’s where you start: by evaluating your needs. What special services should the nursing home be able to offer (physical, occupational, speech, or respiratory therapy; IV management; meds management)? Where would you prefer it to be located? It’s better for your loved one to be in a nursing home where residents have a higher quality of life and care than for it to be the closest one to you, although that’s an important consideration too.
Ask your family doctor, your loved one’s doctor, friends, and religious leaders, who often visit a variety of nursing homes, which one they’d recommend and why.
Another good place to call is the state ombudsman’s office. The ombudsman will be able to tell you if a particular nursing home gets a lot of complaints and what they’re about. To find an ombudsman in the appropriate state, visit www.ltcombudsman.org and click on “Locate an Ombudsman.”
Come up with a short list of places to visit, because it’s very important to see the nursing home with your own eyes, listen to the noise level, see if you smell urine or disinfectant.
Visit more than once, and show up at different times of day and different days of the week. Do you like and trust the caregiving staff? Do you see broken light fixtures and peeling paint or other signs of neglect? Are the residents well-groomed and do they seem content?
Get permission to talk with some residents, and ask them if the food is good and if they like the staff. Eat a meal at the home. Take note of residents’ call lights—do they stay on for longer than five minutes? Speak also with key staff, like the executive director or administrator and the director of nursing. Get permission to come to one of the resident or family council meetings; this is where you’ll find the current concerns of residents and families.
Also ask if the nursing home provides “person-centered care.” This is a trend within the nursing home field. Person-centered care means as much as possible is tailored to your loved one’s individual personality, wants and needs, and, of course, health conditions. So, for example, your loved one could wake when they wanted and have breakfast when they wanted, rather than on a schedule created for everyone at the nursing home.
Another thing to ask is what the nursing home’s annual staff turnover rate is. Anything less than 30 percent is considered good. More than 50 percent is a sign to look elsewhere.
And, finally, take good notes and have a central place for all of the information you uncover. It’s easy to forget things or get mixed up if you’re looking at several nursing homes.
Beth is the Administrator at North County. North County provides long term care and rehabilitation at 310 West Taft in Sapulpa. You can contact her at Beth.Chapman@ArborVillageNursing.com or visit their website at www.ArborVillageNursing.com.