Home sweet home
There is something to be said for planning ahead, particularly when it involves decisions that can be very emotionally charged. Even if choosing a nursing home or retirement residence for yourself or an aging family member isn’t something you necessarily need to do right now, looking into your options and making some preliminary decisions when you’re not under pressure is a good idea for everyone involved.
Obviously your ultimate goal is for you or your loved one to feel safe, cared for and happy in a new environment. One way to find out if a residence you’re interested in exploring is going to be a good fit is to ask around. Talk to trusted friends, family members and neighbors to find out if they have any first-hand experience with the residence. Talk to your family doctor to see if he or she provides care to the residence in question. Ask around at your place of worship to find out if any of the staff minister to the residence in question, as they may be able to give you an insider’s perspective.
You could also ask each of these trusted sources to recommend a residence based on their personal experience.
Once you have a few places in mind, start with some online research. Look at the websites of each residence you’re interested in, but also do a search for independent sites that do reviews of nursing homes, like CareHome in the United Kingdom, Nursing Home Ratings in Canada and USA News Health in the United States. You’ll often find reviews from residents and their families on sites like this, which gives you a real look into what daily life is like in the homes you’re considering.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, it might be time for a site visit. When you go, How Stuff Works recommends that you ask the following questions:
- How does the facility work with the ombudsman program? If the residence welcomes visits from your local ombudsman, it’s a good sign. These officials can act as an advocate for residents, investigating any complaints or issues that might arise. In fact, it’s wise to sit down with your ombudsman to find out what he or she thinks of the facilities you’re considering. Do a search for “long-term care ombudsman” in your state, province or county to find your local official.
- What kind of preventative care is offered? It’s great when a nursing home can care for you or your loved one in your current condition, but you also want to make sure you continue to stay healthy and active. Ask if they provide nutritionally rich meals, exercise programs, flu and pneumonia vaccinations, visits from social workers, group chat sessions and other ways to keep both minds and bodies as healthy as possible.
- What is the fee schedule? Make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered in the monthly fee. Never assume that all the perks you may see during your visit are automatically covered.
- What kinds of activities are available? You want to make sure that the activities and events at the residence match the interests of the potential new resident. It’s also nice to ask if they bring in any outside entertainment, particularly during the holidays. It’s good for residents to be regularly exposed to the outside world because it helps keep them more vibrant and engaged.
- What is the staffing situation? Ask about the patient to staff ratio, including RNs, doctors and social workers, but also chat with some of the staff while you’re there to get a feel for their overall attitude towards the residence and the people they care for.
- What are the facility’s security and safety precautions? Find out about fire safety systems, building security, evacuation plans and techniques, hospital transportation, “wander guards” who keep those with dementia from leaving the property, and whatever measures are in place to keep residents’ belongings safe and secure.
- What are the official policies? Ask for these in writing, and make sure to specifically ask about things that are of particular interested to you. Can pets visit? Can you still see your own doctor? Are visiting hours restricted?
- Is the facility certified and accredited? Find out exactly what kind of certifications the facility has.
- Are residents free to make choices? One of the biggest concerns for those considering retirement living is loss of independence. Find out exactly how much control residents have over the way they lead their lives during the course of a day. Can they choose to eat when they want, decorate their rooms as they choose, and go outside when they’re in the mood?
Nursing homes can be happy, peaceful places for those who need additional care and companionship, but don’t forget that there are also many resources that can help you or a loved one stay at home for longer than you might think. Adult day care, meal delivery programs, senior recreation centers, personal caregivers and home care are invaluable options for those who wish to live at home for as long as it’s safe and comfortable to do so.
411250H CAN/US (04/15)