They looked after you when you were young and vulnerable, so when the time comes to ensure the safety and comfort of your parents in their golden years, you’re not going to choose some nursing facility at random. It has to be right for them. And you.
Start Your Search Off Right
Any nursing facility that receives government money must be inspected by the state. Those that fail are not certified. The most recent inspection report should be available to you and on display in the facility.
You can use this data to compare over 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes in the United States.
While the specific requirements will vary from person to person, there are a number of things that any decent nursing home will provide.
The Recreation Room
A good facility will offer ample and varied recreational opportunities for its residents. Look for mental stimulation (puzzles, a library, newspapers, discussion groups), exercise and fitness (stretching, dancing, and other gentle activities), social events (card games, bridge, coffee hours), field trips, creative and seasonal activities, movies, and yes, even television.
Inspect the recreation room/lounge for comfortable chairs and couches, tables for groups, and all necessary equipment or supplies.
There is nothing worse than a nursing home where residents sit alone all day with nothing to do.
Therapy and Medical Facilities
Again, the scale and scope of need depends on the individual, but you will want to see and inquire about the medical facilities. Who is the staff, what are their credentials, and what schedule do they keep? What is and is not possible on site?
There should be a centrally-located nurses station that looks after the day-to-day responsibilities of medication and overall resident health.
The Resident Rooms
Your loved one will spend a lot of time in their room, so you’ll want something comfortable, cozy, and inviting. Ask whether residents are allowed to decorate. Some facilities allow residents to bring some of their own furniture, like a favorite reading chair or chest of drawers. Is it clean? Bright? Spacious enough? Does it provide adequate privacy (even a shared room should have curtains between beds)?
Confirm that each bed/bathroom has a call-button.
The Dining Room
Often overlooked, the dining facilities, and more importantly the dining options, are key points of interest. Ask about the menu. It should be nutritious and varied. No one wants to eat the same thing every day. Ideally, the residents should have some choice at each meal, and the area should allow for socializing during meals. Confirm the policy on snacks and eating in resident rooms. Is assistance available for those unable to feed themselves?
The Common Areas
The common areas, including the main lounge and hallways, should allow for ease of mobility. Look for handrails, wheelchair accessibility, and obstacle-free floors.
Likewise, outdoor areas should be accessible to all, safe, clean, and provide cover from the elements.
A strong odor may mean linens are not changed often enough, residents are not bathed enough, or facilities themselves are not being adequately cleaned. Ask about the laundry facilities and cleaning schedule.
No one understands the unique requirements for your loved one better than you. Does the level of available assistance meet their specific needs? Trust your gut. If your instinct tells you a facility is not right for them, it’s not right.
Watch the treatment of residents by staff. Are they friendly and caring? Do they refer to them by name? Is there appropriate physical contact?
Finally, you may want to ask about visiting hours, security protocols (especially if your parent suffers from dementia and is prone to wander off), on-site religious services, and seasonal decorations/celebrations. This will be their new home. It should feel like it.
They provided a safe and loving home for you. Now it’s your turn to provide for them.