Narrowing Down the Options
The process of finding a nursing home for a family member in their later years can be difficult and emotionally trying, but with a little planning and the right tools, the selection of a quality nursing home facility can give everyone involved peace of mind and a sense of security that the best care and attention is available to their loved one. And so how do you narrow down the long list of potential nursing homes? What do you look for, and who do you look to for advice? Here are a few simple guidelines and resources to follow when narrowing down your list.
Look for certification
Nursing homes have a certification and licensing process with both state and federal governments. Is the home licensed and authorized by the state to operate? Is the license current? Does everything meet or exceed requirements under state law? You should examine the home's Form 2567, which documents the results of regular state inspections. Also, look at the Medicare website to see if the facility is listed. A facility that has a longer history is better than a new facility with no record of operation.
Check the ratings
There are extensive resources for the rating of nursing homes, but the primary source of ratings, and likely the most reliable, is the rating system employed by the federal government through Medicare. Your search can begin at the nursing home comparison search site. By using this site, you can search for homes by state, city, county, or ZIP code, and even see the specific violations each home has been charged with in the past.
Take an official tour of a site, but also drop by unannounced.
This is essential to seeing what a nursing home is actually like when they haven't specifically prepared for a visitor. Look around to see if the facility is clean and well maintained. Do residents appear to be engaged and happy, or are they relegated to unattended rooms? The attitude of residents during a surprise visit can speak volumes about the quality of the nursing home.
Pay specific attention to the resident to staff ratio.
Make a point of actually calculating this based on your observation. Don't just take the facility director's word for it. A nursing home should have sufficient nursing staff to cover all residents' needs 24 hours a day.
Since poorly trained and unsupervised staff are the primary perpetrators of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect, find out if the home conducts background checks on prospective employees and how this is done. What about the head administrator? What are his or her educational background, training, and qualifications? Also, ask what neglect and abuse prevention policies are in place and find out if training is conducted on a regular basis.
It's probably true that no one wants to move into a nursing home – but if it was necessary, is the facility a place where you would want to live? Does it have access to basic amenities? Does it have access to the outdoors? Are there social activities and the potential to make friends? The basics of happiness in life don't change when moving into a nursing home. If it doesn't seem to provide these things to its residents, or if it gives you a "bad feeling", then don't be afraid to just walk away. But even at seemingly wonderful nursing homes, abuse and neglect can occur. Remember to check up on your loved one at his or her nursing home. If you suspect abuse or neglect you should alert authorities and contact a nursing home abuse lawyer.
"Nursing Home Issues." November 23, 2009. http://www.aaacap.org/nhi.html (accessed Febuary 10, 2010).