As discussed by Colleen Nilsen, a Certified Senior Advisor with A Foundation for Elder Care at the seminar I held on August 22nd, choosing a nursing home for a loved one is a critical 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 in order to choose the best care for the loved one. Based upon the help Colleen Nilsen has provided recently to some of my clients as they researched nursing homes and options to nursing homes, I highly recommend consulting with her. Since she’s in the field visiting her clients in facilities across So. Cal, she can save you numerous hours. In any event, here are some steps designed to assist 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 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. However, care should be given as to any underlying motivation the hospital staff might have for recommending one home over another.
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 Medi-Cal websites can be a very helpful starting place for gathering information on nursing homes and the quality of care provided. A great resource is the website of California Advocates For Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). On their Home Page, you’ll find a tab titled “Find a Nursing Home”. Many facilities may provide survey results that can give insight into the facility’s care.
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, it is time to 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? Patient to caregiver ratio is a critical factor. Many places have a very low patient to caregiver that results in a lack of attentiveness. 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, but 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 the loved one, then it is important to consider cost and what is most important to the family.
Once a nursing home is chosen, 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 Medi-Cal.
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 the 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 feel free to contact us or Colleen Nilsen, a Certified Senior Advisor with A Foundation for Elder Care. Colleen may be reached at (714) 342-8692.