Nursing Home Tips

TIPS FOR VISITING A NURSING HOME

Assessing nursing homes can be a very difficult task for family members. The environment is often more institutional and less home-like than an assisted living community, and the physical needs of long-term care residents are sometimes tough to see. Here are some tips to help you as you go.

1. MEET THE STAFF AND FIND OUT THE STAFF TO PATIENT RATIO

As you explore your nursing home options, pay close attention and ask lots of questions. Staff and staffing ratios top the list of complaints from residents in a nursing care community. When you and your loved on visit, make sure to ask these questions: What is the staff to resident ratio? How many nurses are there per resident? How many aides are there per resident? Is staffing decreased in the evening hours and by how much?

Also ask questions about the staff members themselves. How much turnover do they have overall? How long have the aides been with the community? How long have the nurses been on staff? Turnover can be high in this industry, but some are much higher than others. Low turnover is important in maintaining quality, continuity of care for your loved one.

2. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A RESIDENT TO RECEIVE ASSISTANCE?

A key indicator of how well a nursing home is staffed is call lights. Pay attention to the call lights and alarms that are usually located over resident doorways and at the nurse’s stations. Are multiple call lights going off as you tour? If so, how long does it take staff to respond? If you see a call light going off while you are touring, look at your watch. Then time how long it is before a staff member comes to assist the resident.

3. IS THE NURSING CENTER CLEAN WITH A WELCOMING ATMOSPHERE?

Remember, this will be your family member’s home even if only for a short-term rehab stay. Evaluate the nursing home from the very first impression, including your first phone call to set up the appointment. Are you greeted with a warm welcome? Is the exterior of the building in good repair? Are things well-maintained inside and out? Is the facility clean?

Older physical facilities might not be as attractive as their newer counterparts but cleanliness is the real key. Is there an odor throughout the building? Is there a lot of noise throughout the building? Listen for overhead paging, as it is sometimes an issue. Do staff members yell from one end of the hallway to another? Your family member needs to be able to rest (and sleep!) in this environment. Are there personal touches throughout the community to make it feel less like an institution and more like home? Plants, birds, a community dog or cat, and seasonal decorations are all good things to look for in choosing a home.

3. IS THE NURSING CENTER SAFE AND SECURE?

Resident of nursing homes are some of the most vulnerable citizens. It is important to make sure that the resident is physically, emotionally and personally safe moving into this community. Find out if the community has measures in place to protect the resident. Ask about background checks on employees and on any vendors that frequent the community and have access to residents. Are exterior doors kept locked? Are windows in good repair with locks that work?

Residents that are weak or frail also pose safety risks. Are call lights within resident reach? Is there a call light in the bathroom? Is there a system in place to prevent residents who wander from eloping? Is the exterior of the building well lighted? Are there sprinklers and smoke detectors? What is the area surrounding community like? Is crime an issue? What kinds of front desk procedures are there to prevent people from wandering in to the building and in to resident rooms? Does this procedure extend to weekends? Also ask how residents with difficult behaviors are handled. Do they use restraints? What is their policy on psychotropic drugs? What is the community policy on handling medical emergencies?

4. VISIT THE NURSING CENTER A NUMBER OF TIMES BEFORE MAKING A DECISION.

When visitors are coming, everyone knows to look and act their best. But what happens when you aren’t expected? Sometimes things look and feel different in the evening and on weekends. Does the staffing still seem adequate? Are call lights being answered promptly? Are there increased odors? Families visit more during these times so stop them when you visit after hours and ask for their opinion. What works well and what doesn’t at this community? Most of them will be happy to share their experience –good or bad – with you. The best way to see the true colors of a nursing care community is to visit on multiple occasions, all at different times of the day, including on the weekend as well.

5. DO THE CURRENT RESIDENTS SEEM HAPPY AND CONTENT LIVING THERE?

The best way to tell how residents are being treated is to look and see if the current residents are happy and comfortable. When you visit a nursing home, look to see where the residents are as you tour the facility and what they are doing. Are they engaged in activities or enjoying a meal in the dining room? Do they look clean and well cared for? Is the dining room clean and well maintained? Are healthy snacks and beverages available? Are they dressed in clothing appropriate for the time of day and temperature? Is the interaction between staff and residents kind and respectful? Does staff greet each resident by name? Does the staff make eye contact with you as you tour? Are residents asleep in wheelchairs circled around the television or the nurses’ station?

Speak with the residents and ask them how they spend their days. Do they have the opportunity to go out in to their community to restaurants, movies or church? Is there a resident council that meets regularly with staff? Ask to see minutes of the last resident council meeting to see what issues are of concern to residents.

6. READ THE COMMUNITY’S SURVEY RESULTS

Nursing centers are heavy regulated at the state and federal level. That means you have access to a lot of information about the community’s performance. Ask to see the book where their last state survey results are kept. They have to keep a copy for visitors to review. Your SeniorLiving.Net Care Advisor can also help you sort through the various rating systems when you narrow down your choices to pursue.

7. ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT PAYMENT AND INCIDENTALS

Fortunately, payment in a nursing homes isn’t quite as complicated as assisted living can sometimes be. Just be sure to ask what is covered in the monthly fee and what incidental charges may be added on. Some charges and fees to ask about include phone services, cable, the beauty shop, and planned activities and community outings.

To learn more about senior care options in your area, call your local Care Advisor at (866) 510-9738. Your Care Advisor will discuss the type of care you are looking for your loved one and work with you to find the community that will best meet those needs.