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Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a Nursing Home

Nursing home patient

Sometimes the need for a nursing home comes unexpectedly. Other times, it is a transition that can be planned over an extended period of time. Regardless of the situation, choosing the right home can be a challenge. Few milestones in life are harder than deciding whether nursing home care makes sense and if so, which facility to choose. As with any big decision, it pays to do some research first. We’ve compiled five questions that we believe are crucial to ask during the process of choosing a nursing home.

1. What are your cleaning policies and procedures?

A good way to tell if the facility you have selected is sanitary is to look at the common areas and individual rooms to see how often they are cleaned. Also, smell the air, as you should not be able to identify any foul odors. Off-putting smells trigger concern and could indicate a bigger problem that could then lead to a higher chance of a resident falling ill.

2. What safety precautions has the facility taken?

The home should make security and safety a top priority. Not only should they have fenced grounds, but also inside there should be no additional safety concerns. Make sure that hallways are cleared and rooms are free of clutter. No unsafe furniture or items should be in the rooms or common areas. Showers and bathrooms should have grab bars installed for those who need extra help getting up and down. Also, there should be easy access to emergency call buttons for when residents need assistance.

3. Have there been negative reports against the facility?

On an about-yearly basis, nursing facilities undergo inspections on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Survey data, reports and ratings are available to the public. Annual survey reports should be posted in each facility – and if you don’t see that, ask. A reliable resource for gathering information on potential facilities is the Medicare website. Using the nursing home compare tool, a patient or family member can easily compare past ratings and performance of skilled nursing facilities as well as areas of concern and/or specific complaints. Most importantly, your due diligence should include an investigation of the facility to see if there is a history of ill treatment or neglect. Even if the abuser was arrested or fired, are there multiple complaints spanning over a few years at that facility? If so, it could mean that there is a management issue and the chances of being a victim are increased. Always research health department citations and fines as well.

4. Is the facility equipped to address any potential future needs?

It is important to be realistic about your loved one’s current and anticipated care needs. It is ideal to choose a community that is equipped to provide care now and in the future. Not every facility is equipped to take care of special needs—even if it says it is. Ask detailed questions about certification and training of staff, 24-hour care, and other vital aspects necessary for working with special needs residents.

5. Evaluate the staff

Overworked staff can become overstressed. Ask staff members if they work a lot of overtime. If so, this is a sign of short staffing that can effect patient care. Ask the director of the nursing for the home’s staffing ratios. Horrifyingly, over 40% of nursing home residents have reported abuse. Background checks won’t stop all of this but they can certainly help to weed out repeat offenders or potentially violent people.
The truth is, no place will be perfect. But if you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one, you need one that suits your budget as well as your aging loved one’s needs and wants.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, these are just some key questions you’ll want to ask during the process. It’s also not a bad idea to talk to current residents, if allowed, to find their perspective on the home and see whether or not they’ve enjoyed their time there.

Sometimes, even after doing your due-diligence, cases of nursing home abuse or neglect still occur. Always make sure to be conscious for signs of this by communicating with your loved one that is residing in the home. If your loved one has experienced bedsores, abuse, falls, malnutrition, and/or dehydration, you may have a valid legal claim. Call the Potter Burnett team to find out more.