Determining the right nursing home for your parent is one of the most important decisions you can make — and to help make the process a little easier, we zero in on a few key areas for you and your family to look at.
Choosing a skilled nursing facility should never be rushed or taken lightly; the stakes — the health and well-being of your father or mother — are simply too high for that. So do lots of research, starting off with web resources, such as the Medicare Nursing Home Compare tool, which contains detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the U.S. It’s paramount that you also visit the nursing homes on your short list several times, keeping your eyes and ears open and asking to see their latest state survey or monitoring report.
Choosing the Right Nursing Home
Focusing on these key areas during your visits can help you choose the right nursing home and care for your loved one:
If you’re like most caregivers, making sure your parent receives excellent medical care is probably top of mind. To help you feel confident in that regard, ask lots of questions, including the following:
- What is the staffing to resident ratio?
- How many staff members are nurses?
- How frequently does a doctor visit the home, and can he or she be reached between visits?
- How often do staff check on residents?
- When the need arises, what hospital are residents sent to?
- How does the facility accommodate residents whose needs change (for example, they lose mobility or become incontinent)?
- Have staff have received training on such topics as elder abuse and neglect?
- Does the home offer on-site rehabilitation services like physical therapy or speech therapy?
If your parent has dementia, look for a skilled nursing facility that offers an Alzheimer’s disease program designated as a Special Care Unit.
It’s also vitally important that your parent have all the help he or she needs with the activities of daily living. In terms of grooming, determine how frequently showers are given, how often residents’ teeth are brushed, and whether a barber or hair salon is located on-site. If your parent is incontinent, you will definitely want to know how frequently adult diapers are changed.
Food and Nutrition
Good nutrition is essential for everyone, especially those who are elderly and in frail health. Look for a nursing home that not only offers high-quality food but has a staff nutritionist or dietitian who reviews meals and special diets and regularly monitors residents’ weight. If your parent has dementia, be aware that this disease can lead to problems chewing or swallowing food, and be proactive by finding out how the nursing home accommodates those with eating issues.
Emotional and Social Needs
Besides meeting the physical requirements of residents, a good nursing home should meet emotional and social needs. To that end, look for a place with a rich and varied activities program. Ask the various nursing homes for a copy of their current activities calendar to determine if the activities would be a good fit for your parent. If he or she has dementia, inquire if special activities are provided for those with cognitive impairment.
Because nursing home residents typically spend a lot of time inside, the connections they have with staff can be significant. On your nursing home tours, keep a close eye on how staff interact with residents. Are staff members warm and friendly, cheerfully greeting residents by name, or are do they appear impatient and rushed and overworked?
Of course, your loved one will also be spending much of the day with other residents. With this in mind, look for homes where the residents seem to be active and engaged. On your nursing home trips, take note of the following:
- Are many residents in the common areas, or are most of them isolated in their room?
- If they are out and about, are residents socializing, or just sitting there watching TV?
- Do they appear to function at about the same mental level as your mother or father?
- Are residents well-groomed, wearing clothing that is appropriate?
Strike up a conversation with a few of the residents to find out firsthand what daily life is like at the residence.
This is not an exhaustive list, since there are dozens of factors to take into consideration when deciding on a nursing home, but we think it’s a solid beginning point on your path to find the best care and housing options for the senior in your life.
Are you looking for a nursing home for a parent or senior loved one? Do you have any suggestions we’ve missed? Share your stories and suggestions with us in the comments below.