One of the most difficult decisions an individual can make is to place their loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility. When we do decide to do so, we have every reason to expect that our loved ones will be treated with the utmost respect and given the best care possible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Many nursing homes have a history of safety violations, health violations, or even abuse accusations against the caretakers. Even without these overt violations, some nursing homes just might not be the best environment for your loved one. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to increase the chances that your loved one will be comfortable and happy in their new home.
Check Online Reviews: Often, the best place to start when searching for a nursing home is to do research online. Numerous websites have reviews from residents and their family about the nursing home that will give a clearer picture of the facility as well as a unique perspective on the well-being and happiness of residents. By searching online reviews, you can narrow down your options.
Do Your Research: Nursing homes are publicly regulated and thus finding public records for health or safety violations online can be fairly simple. Websites like Medicare.gov can compare nursing homes by zip code, as well as provide information regarding health inspections.
Check for Severe Violations: While one nursing home may have frequent violations compared to another, this does not always mean that the latter is the better option. Often, nursing homes may have one or two severe violations that can affect your overall impression of the home. Of all possible violations, the most serious include allegations of abuse from nursing home staff. Nursing home abuse takes place far too frequently in the United States and should not be taken lightly when making your decision.
Pay Attention to Staff Interactions: If you make the choice to visit a nursing home, being cognitive of the interactions between staff members and residents can provide you with an idea of how your loved one would be treated in that particular facility. For example, if nursing home staff do not call residents by their full name, it may indicate a lack of respect for those in the facility. Even more importantly, you can look for signs of abuse and/or neglect, which may include bruises and bed sores on residents, residents becoming scared around certain staff members, and signs of social withdrawal. Generally, you want staff members to have warm and polite interactions with those in the facility.
Be Aware of High Staff Turnover: When staff members at the nursing home are constantly rotating in and out as people quit, it may show a lack of commitment from the employees or a general uneasy or unhappy environment. Some of the best nursing homes have staff members who have been employed there for 15 to 20 years, even if the facility is not the fanciest.
Ensure that Residents have Independence: While watching residents to a certain degree in nursing homes can provide safety, you want to make sure that residents also have freedom and independence at the facility. The best nursing homes often have numerous activities for seniors including outdoor activities, games, and opportunities to be a part of the community. Seniors should also have the chance for social activities to connect with others in the nursing home—something you can ask staff members about if you visit a facility. It is also important to make sure that staff members are not using elder talk such as “honey” and “dear” when speaking to residents, which can imply that staff members are coddling them. Instead, watch for staff members that treat and speak to residents as independent individuals, just as you would treat your loved one.
Look for Obvious Signs: If the rooms and bathrooms are dirty and residents do not look well taken care of, this may be enough to cross a potential nursing home off your list. When staff members take pride in their facility and want to provide the most comfortable environment for residents, it is often easy to see. Some other signs to look out for include how neatly the staff is dressed and the smell of the facility.
Trust Your Gut
If you visit a nursing home that does not violate the previous criteria listed, but you still feel uneasy, do not ignore that feeling. Many times, the environment and group of staff members just may not be right for our loved ones. Making the move to a nursing home can be a scary and difficult transition for any senior, but the transition can be made more smoothly if they feel comfortable in their facility. If you are considering nursing home options, doing extensive research and investigating the way staff members interact with residents can be the best thing you can do for your aging loved one.