While no one ever wants to move to a nursing home, it is estimated that over 40 percent of our senior population will end up in a nursing home for long-term care. There are 18,000 nursing homes in the United States caring for approximately 1.6 million residents. Of these residents, 90 percent are over age 65 and about half are over the age of 85. By definition, they are little able to care for themselves and need all the protection provided them under the law and by family and friends.
Choosing a nursing home for a spouse or parent can be a very difficult job. Nursing homes serve as institutions of last resort when it’s impossible for the family to provide the necessary care in any other setting. Many times, the search for a good nursing home has to be made in haste, such as when a hospital or rehabilitation facility threatens to discharge the patient. Other times, it’s when a family member is no longer able to care for a loved one at home. Since this usually is a once-in-a-lifetime task, you don’t have the benefit of experience. Here are a few “rules of thumb” to help you make this decision.
- CHECK AGENCY REPORTS ON CERTIFICATION – You will want to ask if the facility is certified by Medicare and Medicaid and if so, how long they have been certified. Medicare provides a website which rates the performance of all Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes. (www.medicare.gov/NHCompare/home.esp)
- GET REFERENCES – If you don’t know anyone personally who has used the facility, ask the nursing home to provide you with a list of residents and their families so that you can call them. Be sure to ask about the care their loved one received and how responsive the staff was to meeting their needs.
- TALK TO ADMINISTRATION AND STAFF – Each individual resident gets their own care plan under the care of a licensed physician who will evaluate your loved one’s needs and prescribe a program of medical care. This program will include medical care, therapy, diet restrictions and medication. Ask the administration how they will develop this plan and how they will respond to family concerns if the family feels the plan is not working. If you are not comfortable with the answers provided, continue asking questions until you are.
- TAKE A TOUR – The most important thing is the quality of care your loved one will receive. Try to overlook fancy lobbies and don’t outright reject an older, more rundown facility. Rather, pay attention to see if residents are treated with respect. Observe how the staff interacts with each other. Eat in the dining hall to check out the quality of food being offered.
- MAKE FREQUENT VISITS – Once you have decided on a facility and your loved one is settled there, it is wise for you to visit your loved one often and at different times so that you can monitor the quality of care and quality of life of your loved one. Your visits will usually be the highlight of their day.
Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing is never easy. The decision can be compounded if all family members do not agree, or if your loved one does not want to go to a nursing home. But, following these suggestions could help ease the situation.