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How to Choose the “Right” Nursing Home


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So the time has come to put your mom or dad in a nursing home and now you need to figure out which nursing home is the right one. Well it is not an easy thing to do. Choosing the best nursing home depends on your needs. Every patient doesn’t have the same needs. The first thing you will need to know is what special needs your parent or loved one has. Some nursing homes specialize in Alzheimer’s disease. They should have a wing of their hospital set up for these types of patients. It should be secured in a way that prevents them from wandering away from the building or into dangerous areas. It should also allow them to have an area that they can wander in safety without the threat of danger. Most of the patients on this type of unit are ambulatory meaning that they can still walk. They should be allowed to for as long as physically possible, so beware if there are too many wheelchairs. This could mean the nursing home is not keeping the appropriate patients in their unit, or that the patients are over medicated.

Some nursing homes specialize in rehabilitation. They should have a strong Physical Therapy department, Occupational Therapy department, and usually have an on call or part time Speech Therapist. They will typically have a wing where all or most of the patients receiving therapies will be located. The therapists will almost always be more than happy to talk to you about your needs and what they offer.

If your parent is fairly healthy and will not be needing therapy or a specialized unit and will only be needing assistance with their daily living activities then you will want to speak with someone regarding the activities that the nursing home offers. Some are naturally better than others. Some patients progress to the point that they are able to go home, only to return to the nursing home to live just because they missed all of the social interaction and activities offered.

All nursing homes have been regulated, since 1987, by the federal government. This has leveled the playing field. The days of horrible, filthy, and abusive nursing homes are over. Yes, it might still happen, but it’s rare. Every nursing home has an annual surprise inspection. They also are inspected every time there is a complaint. This is done by the State’s Department of Health and Human Services. When the inspectors do the inspection, they give the facility a deficiency for each problem found, and the facility must submit a plan of correction. Then the Department of Health and Human Services re-inspects the facility to ensure that problem was corrected. All of this is documented, and by law must be posted where the public can see it. This is a very important document for you to look at before you admit your loved one to any nursing home. Some nursing homes might have a two or three page survey results book and another might have over a hundred-page survey results book. Wouldn’t you like to know that before you decide where to place your family member? The state survey results will answer questions like:

1. Are they meeting the required staffing ratios?

2. Do they have a lot of skin breakdown?

3. Are they keeping the patients safe from falls.

4. Are patients suffering from abuse?

5. Is the building itself in good shape and safe?

6. Do the call lights get answered in a timely manner? 7. Does the facility have a problem with weight loss?

Weight loss might be an indicator of the quality of the food, or whether or not the staff is taking the time needed to feed the patients who need assistance.

The survey results will give you information on just about every aspect of the nursing home and the care you can expect. Also it will contain the results of all of the complaint surveys. This will tell you the kind of things that others who have families living in the facility are unhappy about and how often. Would you rather put your parents in a place that had one complaint this year or fifty?

You are the customer and you have the right to choose which nursing home you want and which one you feel is best for you. If you do not choose, then the discharge planner at the hospital will choose for you. If you are willing to invest a little of your time and energy you can pick a nursing home that you and your parent can feel happy about, and has the quality of care they deserve. Knowledge is power. Choose well.

Clyde Young is a licensed practical nurse. He has worked in emergency rooms, surgical floors, orthopedic floors and nursing homes for twenty one years. He has eighteen years experience in long term care. He is an expert in the regulations of Ombudsman Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987, and California Title 22. He has had experience with nursing homes of various levels of quality and has a concern that people make the right choice for their loved ones.

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  • Posted On October 31, 2006
  • Published articles 283513

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