Finding the 'Right' Nursing Home
By Jean Donahue
you need to determine what nursing homes are available in the area for
your loved one. You can go to the telephone book, ask friends,
relatives, ministers, hospitals and anyone else that you think might be
able to give you useful information. While you are talking to them, be
sure to ask which ones they would choose to be in themselves and why.
You will probably want to try to make sure your loved one's friends
and/or other relatives are close enough to conveniently visit them.
the nursing homes. At this point, all you need to talk about is the cost
and level of care your loved one needs. Don't worry, this won't be your
only chance to ask questions.
you know which ones meet the above criteria, make an appointment with
the administrator. Go over the finances and level of care again during
this visit, but there are other questions you need to ask. Here are some
questions you should ask, but don't forget to evaluate your loved one's
situation individually and include questions specific to their needs:
Services - Does the home have special services in a separate section
when needed? Is there usually a bed available in that unit? This would
include sections like an Alzheimer's unit or rehabilitation unit.
Frame - How long does it usually take to get someone into the home after
making an application? Sometimes you can get your loved one in
immediately and sometimes there is a waiting list.
- How many beds do they have and how much care and medication do the
existing residents require?
- How many nurses, CNAs, and other employees do they have to take care
of patients? What doctors and hospitals do they use? How often do the
doctors visit? How far is the hospital?
- What is their policy on visits from friends and relatives? Do they
allow friends and relatives to eat with the patient without a prior
- When do they use restraints, and what restraints do they use? When and
why do they sedate patients? What alternatives do they use rather than
restraints and sedation?
Belongings - How do they take care of your loved one's personal things
such as jewelry and watches.
- Can a resident choose within reason what they want to eat? Ask to see
a week's menu. Can you eat there occasionally?
With You - Will they let you know whenever there is a fall, cut or any
physical problem? Are you expected to become involved with decisions
regarding your loved one? How much physical involvement in the patient's
care do they expect from you? Remember that you of course should visit,
but they should take care of your loved one - that's why you're looking
into homes in the first place.
- How do they handle things when there are problems. What procedures are
in place when something is missing or your loved one is bruised or
suffers a fall that shouldn't have happened or could have been
prevented? How should you report a problem or something missing?
Questions - Ask any other questions you might want to know. Now is the
you are there, ask for a tour of the site. Notice how the home smells,
whether the building is clean, how the patients look (grooming), what
activities are going on at the time, what the kitchen looks like,
whether there are any bells ringing for an extended period of time (yes,
this happens!), and anything else that is either apparent or not so
with a couple of residents, if you can, to get their impression of where
they live. Ask what they like most and what they dislike most. If you
are not allowed to talk with them, ask the administrator why. Depending
on the answer, this could be a trouble sign.
this point, if you haven't already, discuss the possible homes that suit
your standards with your loved one. They may prefer a certain home if
they have friends there. They may already have good or bad impressions
of certain homes.
next step is to make two or three unannounced visits at different times
of day, including nights and weekends. Notice whether the patients seem
happy, what activities are going on and whether patients are taking part
in them or just sitting there, whether they appear healthy, clean and
comfortable, whether the staff treats them with respect, whether the
staff appears happy.
take a closer look at details of the home: are the sheets clean, are
rooms well lighted and ventilated, is the room temperature comfortable,
are there handrails and grab bars in the halls, rooms and bathrooms; and
last but not least, is the food inviting and does the staff make sure
everyone has plenty to eat?