There are many important factors you need to take into account when the time comes to move a parent or a grandparent into a nursing home.
One is the person’s own wishes. If at all possible you should be making this decision in advance, when the person is still able to actively take part in the deliberations and final decision.
Another important factor is facilitating visits. Visits are important not only for the morale of the person who knows that they are not forgotten, but also because staff is aware of which residents get plenty of visits and they know that in a sense their work with those residents is under the greatest scrutiny. So even if subconsciously, they tend to make a little extra effort. Therefore choose a nursing home that will be convenient for you and other family and friends to visit. (Call Eldercare at 800-677-1116 for a list of nursing homes closest to you.)
Cost is unavoidably a factor that must be taken into account. In some cases Medicare or your insurance will cover some costs, but you need to find this out and determine what you’ll have to come up with. Remember that often the price quoted will include just certain basics, and much else will be add-ons.
There are some things you can research in advance, and some things that are best researched with a visit to the premises. Ahead of time you can check with your state regulatory agency to make sure the nursing home is licensed, and to see what kind of a record it has. You should also check to see if it is certified by Medicare and Medicaid. You can also talk to your doctor and other medical professionals in the area who likely have some familiarity with the local nursing homes.
When you visit the facility, take your time, see everything there is to see, and don’t be shy about asking questions.
The nursing home should be scrupulously clean, have no powerful unpleasant odor, have all necessary safety equipment, be well lit, and have adequate hot water.
Residents should be active and happy, rather than just sitting and staring into space, looking unhappy or neglected. Their needs should be attended to promptly. Staff should be pleasant in demeanor, wear name tags and know and be known by the residents, dealing with them respectfully.
There should be a doctor always available, and adequate nursing staff. If your parent or grandparent has special needs-whether it be dementia care, a special diet, physical therapy, etc.-there should be appropriate personnel and services to accommodate these needs.
It is also a good idea to see if there is a residents’ council at the nursing home. This is a group of residents and their family members who meet regularly with staff members to discuss their questions, concerns, and complaints. You may want to sit in on a meeting before committing to a nursing home, and listen to the residents and their families speak frankly.
In the end, do the research and make the most informed decision you can, so you’ll be comfortable that your parent or grandparent is in good hands.
Karen Westerberg Reyes, “Choosing a Nursing Home.” AARP.
“Choosing a Nursing Home: A Caregiver’s Guide.” National Family Caregivers Association.
“How to Choose a Nursing Home.” Nursing Home Guide.
“Nursing Home Checklist.” Medicare.gov.