Unfortunately, there comes a time in our lives when we will need to take care of our aging parents, relative, friend, or neighbor. The task in choosing a nursing home or nursing rehabilitation center can be a difficult and frightening task. What was once believed of nursing homes is, that patients screamed and wandered throughout the night. This belief led to the fear of nursing homes, even though it has been a myth for many years. Establishing which nursing facility to choose, will put your mind at ease, and you will gain comfort knowing that your loved one is being well taken care of. Below are 5 simple steps to use as a guideline during your visit to a nursing rehabilitation center.
Building Appearance – Does the building have great curb appeal? What attracted you to the building? Look at the parking lot, drive by during inclement weather to see if the parking lot and sidewalks have been attended to. Are they clear of debris? Does the lawn stay maintained, and are there flowers blooming?
Friendly staff – Upon entering the building, observe the staff. How were you greeted? Was he or she courteous? Did they listen attentively? This is important because you will need to explain your loved ones needs, likes and dislikes. The person should be taking notes and asking specific questions to determine whether or not the facility can meet the needs of your special loved one. Be sure to ask about the change in staff. Is there a big turnover? Reason behind this question is that seniors do not adapt to change that well. They build a special bond with the employees on a routine basis. When this is disrupted, it can affect the resident. Notice the interaction between the staff and residents. Can you tell if there is a special bond? Does the staff take adequate time for the resident, or do they seem rushed? Also, pay attention to how the residents react to each other. An important thing to watch closely is the response to emergency call lights. These are above the doorway to each patient’s room and light up when the resident is in need of assistance. The emergency response system is to be answered within 3 minutes.
Cleanliness and odors – When touring the building, be observant of your surroundings. Attention to detail will play a vital role. Observe the floors, bedside tables, patient rooms, and common areas for clutter and dust. This may seem minor to some folks, but this will give you an idea of how clean the building is kept on a routine basis. Notice if you are smelling foul odors. Is there a strong urine smell throughout the hallways?
Dietary menu – Food plays a vital role for senior citizens in two different aspects. First of all, it provides the nutrients they need to aid in the healing process. Secondly, mealtime provides socialization. Depression increases in seniors due to traumatic life changes, such as, losing a spouse or sibling, becoming dependent on others, and selling or moving from their home. If you are visiting the building during mealtime, observe the trays being served in the dining area. Does the food look presentable? Are condiments offered? Does the staff assist the residents in cutting food or opening packets? Ask the dietary employees about substitutes. What if a resident doesn’t like the meal being served? Are snacks available? Can residents request bigger portions? Besides the standard milk, coffee, or juice, are there any other beverages that are available? These are just a few standard questions, I am sure you get the idea. Be sure to request a copy of the current menu and a menu for the following month.
- Life enrichment, a.k.a., activities – This is a very important section. This department aids in the transition, socialization, happiness, and well-being of your loved one. Throughout your tour, you may have noticed residents gathering in a particular room, participating in crafts, reading, or playing bingo (which is a very popular activity amongst nursing homes). If not, this would raise some concern. Do not be too alarmed just yet. First of all, you need to request the monthly activity calendar. I would request the current month and at least two months following. Then, I would request to meet the activity director and any staff members responsible for providing the activities to the residents. Observe their interaction with the residents, co-workers, and other family members. How do they respond? Are they genuine? Are they energetic, do they seem fun? Does he or she seem like someone your loved one would relate to? Stick around and watch this department for at least 15 minutes. If there aren’t any activities going on, this would be a great time for you to get to know the life enrichment coordinator.
These are just a few simple guidelines to use in search of a short or long term nursing home stay. I suggest not scheduling a tour. I also suggest visiting during normal meal time hours. Be sure to visit each facility at least twice, unannounced. You may also want to visit on a day that a special activity is being conducted. Remember to request a tray if you are visiting during mealtime. These methods will let you see firsthand how the facility really functions without being prepared for watchful eyes.