The closure of Carlton Manor, a Fayette County nursing home, due to failed inspections and suspected abuse, has raised questions for local residents about how to select a nursing home. Moving yourself or a relative that can no longer live independently into a nursing home is a big decision and a big change. Choosing a nursing home is a lot like buying a house, in that it takes time, patience, and perseverance. Here are some tips to help you pick the best and safest nursing home for yourself or a loved one.
Know the Laws in Your State: Look into laws regarding nursing homes in your state. Can you find out if the nursing home you are looking at has failed any inspections? What are the laws about housing criminals? For example, in the state of Ohio, nursing home residents do not have to be notified when a sexual offender moves into the nursing home. Since you don’t have to be notified, you may have to take additional steps to find out if a sexual offender is residing at a nursing home you’re considering.
Inspect the Food: When you visit a nursing home, consider swinging by the cafeteria for a snack or a meal. While you’re there, take a close look at a variety of foods. How do they look? Try to taste multiple items. “When people are aging and losing a lot of sensory sensitivity, food is a huge issue,” says Maryglenn Boals, a former nursing home administrator. “The meal might meet dietary requirements, but is it palatable? Is it visually encouraging, especially to someone who doesn’t have much interest in eating?”
Chat Up the Staff: While you’re touring the nursing home, talk to the staff, like the nursing assistants. Ask them if they work a lot of overtime or back-to-back shifts. You can also ask an administrator to see the patient-to-staff ratios. “If the staff are overworked, then they are overstressed. It’s a lot of giving, and they’re working in a difficult situation,” says Boals. While talking to the staff, take note of how they treat you and each other. Marion Somers, an elder care advocate and former nursing home administrator, says, “If the staff is rude to each other, they’re going to be rude to your parent.”
Know What’s on the Calendar: When you visit the nursing home, are the halls and common areas deserted? If residents are kept or allowed to remain in their rooms all day alone and watching television, that probably isn’t a good sign. According to a recent AARP article, “A quality nursing home is going to have a daily calendar of activities.” Activities keep residents young in mind and body.
Inquire about Falls: Ask the nursing home how they handle falls. Ask for details, and ask them to expand on any points that aren’t specific. For example, if they say a resident is assessed for injuries at the time of the fall and at a later date, you might ask how they are assessed as well what the definition of “a later date” is.
Ask about Personal Care: One example of personal care is incontinence. If you or your loved one is incontinent, ask how often diapers are changed. “If a memo goes out to the staff saying, ‘nobody is to have more than six changes a day,’ for instance, that is a problem. If you don’t change a diaper and keep the area dry and clean, that can lead to wounds,” says Marion Somers. Also inquire about things like baths and showers.