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Selecting a nursing home for your loved one is a serious consideration to make, as the staff of the facility will be responsible for ensuring his or her safety and well-being. It is recommended that families make multiple visits to nursing homes that they are considering, with visits coming at different times of the day. This will allow you to evaluate how the nursing home operates when the staff is not expecting you. Below is a nursing home checklist for when you visit.
The staff at Medicare/ Medicaid-certified nursing homes are required to provide you with a copy of the facility's most recent annual health inspection upon request. You can also obtain this information from Medicare's Nursing Home Compare tool. While it is important to read through the results of the most recent inspection and to observe the star rating given to the facility by Medicare, it is important to note that deficiencies are often missed during health inspections and that the other criteria used to determine a star rating is largely self-reported by the facility. So, while this information is valuable, the accuracy of the report should be measured against your own observations of the facility.
While speaking to the facility's director or other administrative staff about certifications, it is important to also ask if there is a bed immediately available at the facility for your loved one or if they will be placed on a waiting list.
The Location of the Facility and the Services Provided
Most families want their loved one to reside in a facility that is close enough to their own homes to support regular visitation. It is important to consider when visiting potential placements that you evaluate the location of the facility. Is the route you would take to visit your loved one easy enough that you are able to get to the facility quickly or often? Is the facility located in a safe area where it and the residents who live there are unlikely to become the targets of area crime? Is the facility located close to a hospital and is there an agreement in place with that hospital to ensure that your loved one gets the medical services that he or she needs?
In addition to considering the facility's location, you should also consider the services that are provided at the facility. Does your loved one need a specific diet for health or religious purposes? Does he or she need memory care, extensive physical therapy services, or a short-term placement? Facility staff is required to provide a list of the services they offer as well as the cost of those services.
The Condition of the Facility
You should make note of any obvious safety hazards that could cause injury to your loved one if he or she enters the facility. In addition, you should look for the following:
- Offensive odors. It is not unusual to encounter smells in a nursing home facility. However, particularly strong odors are not only a potential red flag that there are unsanitary conditions present -- including potential neglect in addressing residents' incontinence or personal hygiene -- but considerations must also be made as to whether your loved one can handle living in a place with an unusual smell.
- Poor lighting. Poor lighting increases the risk of falling, which elderly individuals are already at greater risk for and which can cause a dangerous or even deadly injury.
- Ringing phones and other chaos. Particularly noisy nursing home facilities can indicate that there is not enough staff to answer phones, provide patient care, and maintain an orderly atmosphere at the same time. In addition to making the facility uncomfortable for residents, it speaks to additional hazards caused by understaffing.
The Staff's Interaction with Residents
Another important thing to make note of when visiting a nursing home is how the staff interacts with residents. Be wary of facilities where:
- There is a lack of warm interaction between staff and residents. Staff is observed talking amongst themselves while residents are ignored or left unsupervised.
- Residents appear to be unclean or are wearing soiled clothing. This is another indication of neglect caused by understaffing.
- Staff does not know the residents' names. Turnover is frequent in nursing facilities, so a newly hired staff member not knowing everyone's names is not necessarily a cause for alarm. However, if a staff member has been with the facility for quite some time, it is reasonable to expect that he or she would know who he or she is working with every day.
- What are the facility's policies and procedures regarding reporting suspected abuse and neglect?
Trust Your Gut!
If you feel like there is something wrong with the facility you have been touring, understand that there is usually a reason for that feeling even if you are struggling to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Trust your gut and look for a different facility.
How Can A Medicaid Planning Attorney Help Me Pay For A Nursing Home?
Nursing home care is not cheap. Once you have found a facility that provides the level of care that you seek, determining how to pay for it is the next thing you will need to figure out. A Medicaid planning lawyer puts together strategies to help their clients pay the exorbitant costs associated with long-term care and protect their assets so they have something to pass onto their heirs.
If you need help qualifying for Medicaid, or with any other aspect of paying for a nursing home or other long-term care facility, I encourage you to reach out right away to schedule a consultation.