According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 15,000 nursing homes in the U.S., with 70 percent of them being for-profit businesses.
But with nursing home abuse so rampant, how do you decide which facility is ideal for your loved one? Use this guide to give yourself the best chance at finding a reputable nursing home.
Use Your Sense of Smell
This may sound like an odd directive, but when you visit a prospective nursing home, take in the scents around you. While it’s true that even the best nursing homes may feature subtle, unpleasant scents, be wary of any facility in which the scent of urine and feces is very strong and unavoidable. That could be a strong indication that the nursing home does not have the proper sanitation level to ensure that your loved one will live in a clean environment.
Pay Attention To the Caregivers
Nursing homes are often a beehive of activity and controlled chaos, so it’s important that you observe the staff. Are they patient? Do they seem to be a well-organized unit that attends to residents’ needs? Most importantly, how many caregivers do you see in the facility relative to the number of nursing home residents? Too many residents and too few caregivers could mean that your loved one’s care is neglected due to under staffing. If you can’t tell simply by observation, then ask the nursing home director to provide you with the ratio of staff-to-resident.
What Are the Daily Activities?
Per the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a good nursing home “is going to have a daily calendar of activities in which your parent can participate. If your parent is room-bound, activities should be brought to his or her room.”
You should obtain a monthly schedule, so that you have a good idea what your loved one can expect in terms of leisure activities. If your loved one isn’t room-bound, then a schedule of activities such as going to the pool/sauna, gym and outdoor shopping could provide enough variety to break up the monotony of living in a nursing home.
Test the Food
One of the biggest complaints elderly residents have about nursing homes is the quality of food. Before choosing a nursing home, ask the director if you can sample a variety of the food that is prepared for residents. You want to make sure that the nursing home provides a variety of meals that can satisfy even the most picky eater, because your loved one may have some specific likes and dislikes. Furthermore, you should find out if residents can request meals at any time, or if eating is confined to specific break, lunch and dinner times. This could be an issue if your loved one likes to snack or eat at odd hours.
You absolutely must find out the specific policy each nursing home has regarding videotaping inside a resident’s room. Many nursing homes provide video surveillance of common areas such as a lounge, cafeteria, patio and nurses stations.
But some nursing homes require the consent of roommates and staff before they allow you to videotape inside a resident’s room. If videotaping to ensure safety is an issue for you, this is something you must determine prior to signing an agreement.
Elder Abuse Justice
Our new partner, Teri Rowe, is a vital part of our nursing home/elder abuse practice and brings her additional skills as an engineer to bear on complex technical and medical issues. Gabe Kory and Jeff Miller are Assistant Professors of Practice at the University of Arizona Medical School—Phoenix, where they instruct on elder abuse to future physicians.