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Tips for Finding a Quality Nursing Home During a Pandemic

nursing home

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is uprooting many areas of life.  For families considering nursing home care for a loved one, it is causing them to second guess such a move.  COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes are certainly a reason for concern, but does that mean you should stop looking into nursing homes altogether?

While COVID-19 is certainly a risk factor worth considering, families should also consider that nursing home abuse, illness outbreaks and other issues happen every day in nursing homes.  As sad as that reality is, it is the truth.  Fortunately, no matter what the concerns are, there are some things families can do to search for and find a quality nursing home, even during a nationwide pandemic. 

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Offers Tips on Finding a Quality Nursing Home

If your family is considering your options for nursing home care for you or someone you love, there are some things you can do to ease the search process and choose a facility with confidence in your choice.  Below are some tips for finding a quality facility from nursing home abuse lawyer, Charles Brown.  In an interview with KSAT 12 News, Mr. Brown offers families the following advice:

Determine A Budget

One of the first steps in choosing a nursing home is determining what your family can afford.  To do this, first determine how much care your loved one needs.  Does he or she need limited care, such as medication reminders, assistance with meals, etc.? Or does he or she require daily medical care and supervision? The amount of care your loved one needs will factor into the cost. 

Determining the amount of care needed will help you determine if you need assisted living or nursing home care.  It will also help you narrow down your budget, which will, consequently, narrow down your field of choices. 

Nursing homes may be more expensive because they require more specialized staff, nursing staff and medical care.  Nursing homes also have much stricter regulation, including regulations for staffing, food safety and services.  Assisted living facilities have much more relaxed regulations because there is less involvement in the daily needs of residents. 

Utilize Online Resources for Your Search

There are several legitimate online resources that you can use to help identify and review nursing homes.  If you are considering a facility that accepts Medicaid or Medicare, the best place to start your search is Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool.  According to Mr. Brown,

“They have data on staffing, they have data on incidents, they can tell you the number of residents that get a bedsore.” 

The more information you gather in advance, the better equipped you will be to spot potential red flags when you visit a facility.  You can also find information through your state’s long-term care Ombudsman office.  The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program offers information about nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Visit the Facility

Before deciding on a nursing home for your loved one, you should definitely visit the facility first.  But don’t just settle for an informal meeting with the administrator.  Mr. Brown says it is important to also talk to staff members.  He says,

“I think one of the mistakes that sometimes people make is they forget who is actually going to be caring for the residents.”

Meet with the nursing director and certified nursing assistants (CNAs).  These are the people who will be working with your loved one the most.  Your conversation with CNAs can reveal a lot about the kind of care your loved one can expect.  Take note of your conversation and the attitude of CNAs.  Are they gruff or mean? Do they seem to enjoy their work, or are they tired and overwhelmed? Think about how they come across now, and imagine how they will respond at the end of a difficult shift. 

Do More than the Guided Tour

Most nursing homes offer a guided tour of the facility.  Here, staff may show you an example of a resident room, activity areas, dining room, etc.  This is a great way to get an overview of the facility, but should not be the only means of assessing it.  Mr. Brown recommends not limiting your visit to the guided tour.  Ask to see areas of the facility where your loved one will be.  As you visit, be mindful of the following:

  • Smells – Do you notice a smell of urine or strong cleaning products?
  • Sounds – Are the sounds around you pleasant? Is there music playing? Do you hear grumbles or crying?
  • Residents – Take note of how residents look. Are they clean and well groomed? Do they seem happy? Are they active and moving around, or are they primarily sedentary?
  • Food Service – If you visit at mealtime, take note of how the food looks and smells. Also note how residents respond to the food.  Do they seem to be enjoying it? Are residents complaining about the food?

When visiting facilities, trust your instincts.  If something seems “off” then it might be a sign that this isn’t the nursing home for you. 

Discuss Important Issues Before Signing Paperwork

Once you narrow down your list of possible nursing homes, it is important to discuss certain issues before you sign any paperwork.  First, Mr. Brown recommends discussing your loved one’s medical records.  You cannot assume that you will have access to your loved one’s medical records once they are living at the facility.  Mr. Brown says,

“You need to find out from the facility what they’re going to require to make sure that you have all of the relevant medical information that you need to help make medical decisions.”

Take whatever steps are necessary as soon as possible so you have continued access to your loved one’s records and needs. 

Next, you should also discuss your loved one’s care plan.  Find out how the nursing home establishes a care plan.  Most facilities will have a meeting with nursing staff to discuss the resident’s needs.  Families should be invited to this meeting.  If you are not invited or are not given details about a care plan meeting, ask them. 

“Families are invited to that, and frankly should be, if you aren’t invited, you need to ask,” said Brown.  “By being involved you will at least assure the conversation isn’t brief and that they don’t just skip over and say everything is, ‘ok,’” 

Have Concerns about Care in a Nursing Home?

If you have questions or concerns about the care your loved one is receiving in a nursing home, contact Nursing Home Abuse Center. We help families understand their legal rights and options to ensure that their loved one’s are safe. To request a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call 1-866-548-9636. 

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