As the population in the United States continues to age, it is estimated that there will be 19 million Americans over the age of 85 by the year 2050. Currently 1 in 8 Americans reside in a long-term care facility or nursing home. This doesn’t even factor in the number of people who need short-term stays in nursing homes for rehabilitation or following medical procedures or injuries.
The choice of a nursing home is an important one. In 2002 the New York Times reported that Federal studies showed that nearly 90% of nursing homes were understaffed and lacked the capabilities to handle the number of patients in their facilities. Since this 2002 study, many facilities still remain vastly understaffed.
Additionally, sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect is more common than one might think. From unwitnessed falls, dehydration, and malnutrition, to pressure ulcers, nursing homes without adequate and well-trained staff can cause serious injuries or even death for residents.
When selecting a nursing home it is vitally important to do your due diligence and learn as much as you can about the facility. By asking the right questions and making the right observations you can ensure that you are placing your loved one in the right facility for them.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends asking some of the following questions to learn about how the facility will care for your loved one.
Questions about the Facility and Staff
Before entering the building, take notes of the surrounding neighborhood, the facilities, landscaping, and building itself. Is it clean and well kept? Is it in a nice part of town? Pay attention to the noise level, if the halls and common areas are well lit, and if the facility appears clean and well kept. Notice how many nurses and staff members are working, how they interact with residents, and if they are friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable.
Be sure to ask:
· How many beds do you have?
· What are visiting hours?
· How many nurses or staff members are working on each shift?
· How many of those nurses or staff be caring for my loved one?
· Do you offer transportation to doctor’s offices or other appointments, or are those appointments handled on-site?
· How many adverse events have you had in the past 3 years related to falls, pressure ulcers, dehydration, or malnutrition?
· Are the exterior doors locked?
· Are there written materials that you can provide which explain the types of care provided?
Questions about Residents Rooms
Notice whether the rooms are attractive, well lit, clean, and welcoming. Are there windows? Does the room have a private bathroom? Is it a shared room or will your loved one be in a private room?
Be Sure to Ask:
· What safety precautions are in the room to prevent falls or other injuries?
· Does the room have a working call button to call nurses or staff?
· How often are nurses or staff coming into the room to check on my loved one?
· If they need help with daily activities, such as getting in and out of bed or getting to and from the toilet, how do they get assistance?
· What do they do if there is no assistance available when they need it?
Questions about Resident Care
Pay attention to where the dining room in the facility is, how far it is from your loved one’s room, and what time meals are served. Observe other residents. Do they seem clean and well cared for, or are they unkempt?
Be Sure to Ask:
· How often will my loved one get a shower?
· What time are meals served and who will take my loved one to eat?
· Will my loved one get assistance eating and drinking if they need it?
· Can my loved one take a bath, instead of a shower, if they prefer?
· Can they dress in the clothing of their choice?
· Will they receive help brushing teeth, shaving, and with other necessary hygiene?
Questions about Staff
The staff members at the facility are the ones who will be providing care to your loved one. Pay close attention to how they interact with residents and how quickly they respond to requests from residents. Staff members should know the residents by name, be respectful and friendly, and should always be prepared to assist residents in need.
Be Sure to Ask:
· Do you have a full-time social worker on staff?
· Are there skilled rehabilitation therapists on staff?
· How many doctors and nurses are on staff?
· What type of staffing pattern do you use? How long are shifts?
· How often does a doctor check on my loved one?
· Can the doctor be reached at all times?
· What types of training does the staff receive? Who trains them and how often do they get updated training?
The choice of a nursing home or long-term care facility is an important one. You want to ensure that your loved one is getting the best, highest quality care, is treated with kindness and dignity, and is never neglected or overlooked. By asking the right questions and properly vetting the nursing home and its staff you can make sure your loved one is good hands.