Nursing Home Decisions - What to Look For in a Facility

Nursing Home Decisions – What to Look for in a Facility

Making the decision to place Mom or Dad in a facility is never easy, and is fraught with emotional anguish and feelings of guilt for many.

However, taking the time to carefully choose a facility that meets the needs of your aging parent as well as ensures quality care may help the transition process, making it a bit easier on the elderly parent as well as caregiver.

Finding a Nursing Home

Children of elderly parents looking into elderly housing need to carefully assess various facilities and ask a variety of questions when choosing a location. Cost is just one major concern. On average, elderly care may average between $1,000 to $4,000 a month, depending on geographical location. Determining whether a long-term care facility or nursing home will accept Medicare or Medicaid Services payments are one of the most important questions to ask.

After cost considerations, the basics to look for include:

  • Licensing and certification
  • Inspection results
  • Availability to nursing staff
  • Safety considerations
  • Appearance
  • Your gut feeling
Nursing Home Elderly Housing

Licensing and Certification

Don't be hesitant or embarrassed to ask about licensing and certification. Facilities are required to be certified and accredited by Federal government inspection agencies in order to receive Medicare or Medicaid payments. The certification process ensures that facilities meet basic care and quality standards.

Ask for inspection results. Facilities are inspected on a yearly basis and ranked according to deficiencies by their severity as well as how current residents are affected.

For example, a facility may be tagged for failing to file a medical report, which may result in a minor deficiency.

However, a facility may also be tagged with deficiencies for not preventing bed-sores or for experiencing a high rate of falls or medication errors. Deficiencies are ranked by severity or potential harm to patients.

Consumers are encouraged to access Medicare's Nursing Home Compare Program at to research inspection results at various facilities. Click on the "Compare Hospitals" or Compare Nursing Homes in Your Area" by inserting city, state, zip code or facility name.

Ratio between staff members and residents is also important.

Look around and see how busy the nurses or aide staff are. Are call lights answered quickly? Do the staff looked pleasant and calm or aggravated and overworked?

Visit the property prior to making any decision. However, do remember that there are patients or residents at every location that may be experiencing a bad day, emotional upset or medication or disease process reactions, especially those found in an Alzheimer's wing. Try to visit the facility several times at different times of the day and the week to determine the overall general atmosphere and care given and received in that facility.

Follow Your Instincts

While it may not be a scientific approach, gut instincts should play a large role in your decision or selection of a specific nursing home. For example:

  • Do you feel comfortable in the facility?
  • Is the facility clean and cheerful?
  • Are activities available for residents?
  • Are residents sitting by themselves for long periods of time?
  • Can residents go outside?
  • Does the facility depress you? Smell bad?
  • Is the facility extremely quiet or too noisy?

One of the most important questions to consider is whether or not you would feel comfortable living in such a facility. While no one wants to live in a long-term care center or elderly housing, if you had to, would you be content there? Chances are if you wouldn't want to live there, neither will your parent.

Choosing a nursing home requires a combination of logical observations as well as emotions or feelings connected to the facility. Take the time to speak to residents, arrange for a tour, as well as a private, unexpected and unscheduled visit on more than one occasion to generate a good sense of the overall atmosphere and quality of care offered by a nursing facility.

Talking with Mom and Dad

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