Making a decision on a nursing home for your parent can be a difficult thing to do. It involves two key issues:
- When should you place your parent in a nursing home; and
- Which nursing home will provide the best care for your parent?
Throughout the process, you will want to think about everything from your parent’s medical needs to the food that he or she will eat to the number of nurses the home has on staff.
The following are five tips to help to make your choice:
1. Write down your criteria.
The very first thing that you should do is to meet with any family members who will be involved in the decision-making process and will be responsible for the nursing home placement decision. As a group, you should discuss what criteria you will use to select a nursing home for your mother or father.
What do you think will be most important to your parent? Is location essential? Is it important that residents be allowed to come and go as they please? Is the staff-to-patient ratio an essential consideration?
Make a detailed list of the things that are absolutely most important – the things you will absolutely refuse to comprise on – as well as things that you will be more willing to be flexible about.
2. Search online and make a list of potential nursing home choices.
The second step in finding a nursing home for your mother or father is to conduct a general Internet search and make a list of any potential homes.
One of the best ways to do this is to simply do a Google search. Type in “nursing homes in Teaneck, New Jersey” – or wherever you live – and review the local results. If you don’t like the look of a nursing home’s website, chances are that you won’t care much for the actual home, either.
You can start narrowing down nursing homes based on specific criteria. For example, if your mother or father will be using veterans’ benefits to pay for nursing home care, it is essential that you choose a VA nursing home.
Or, you may want to narrow down nursing homes based on location – the closer to you, the better – or based on the services they provide such as specialized care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
3. Look up the homes on NursingHomeCompare.gov.
Once you have made a list of a few potential homes that may work for your parent, the second thing that you should do is to look up the homes on NursingHomeCompare.gov.
This is a government-run website that provides a wealth of information about the quality of care found at Medicare or Medicaid-certified nursing homes in New Jersey and across the country.
When you search nursing homes in Teaneck on NursingHomeCompare.gov, you can quickly see that some nursing homes are rated much more highly than others. You can also see the reasons for these ratings, which can help you to make your nursing home placement decision.
For example, more than one of the nursing homes has received only a two-star (out of five stars) rating for “health inspections,” ranking it “below average.” On the other hand, there are a couple of nursing homes that have received a four- or five-star rating for all four categories – overall rating, health inspections, staffing and quality measures.
4. Visit the nursing home in person.
At this point, you should have narrowed your list to only a handful of nursing homes based on what you have learned from making a list of criteria, conducting an Internet search and using the Nursing Home Compare feature or other online sources.
If your mother or father is in good physical and mental health, bring them along to each of the nursing homes with you as you visit. Your parent’s input should be a top consideration.
When you visit each home, come prepared with a list of questions. Some important things to ask include:
- How much does this facility cost? What is included in the cost?
- How many doctors and nurses do you have on hand?
- Do residents have to eat at a certain time or can they choose their own meal times?
- What is your protocol in the event of an emergency?
- Have you ever been named in a medical malpractice lawsuit?
- Do you offer any special health services?
- What social activities do you organize for residents?
- Do you offer mental health services?
- Can residents set their own schedules?
- Can residents come and go as they please?
- What are your facility’s visiting hours?
- How do you handle resident complaints and concerns?
- How do you handle any fall accidents?
While all of the above questions are important, those questions concerning the residents’ health and safety are critical.
As AARP points out, accidents like falls can happen in even the best of circumstances (not to mention the worst). It is important that a nursing home is equipped with accident prevention strategies as well as plans for how to handle an accident should one happen.
By going to a nursing home in person, you can also get a sense of how the facility is maintained and how residents interact with nurses and other staff members. Even the lighting or smell of the nursing home can give you a good sense of whether you want to choose this facility for your parent.
5. Ask for referrals and talk to your parent’s doctor.
This is it: You probably already have your top nursing home choice in mind. But just in case, ask for referrals or talk to friends and other family members who may have a loved one residing in nursing homes near you.
You should also meet with your parent’s doctor to get an update on his or her health and medical needs and run the idea of the nursing home by the doctor. It is very likely that the doctor has heard good things or bad things about the nursing home and can give an unbiased opinion.
Once you have made a decision about the nursing home and your parent has been admitted, stay involved in the transition process, which can be extremely emotional for everyone.