One of the most difficult decisions you might have to face is deciding on a nursing home. Whether you are planning for your own future residence or for a beloved family member, there are steps you can take to make choosing a nursing home less difficult and heartbreaking.
- Know what you need. Before you start looking at the nursing homes in your area you should have an idea of what you are looking for. You might need a facility geared more toward assisted living or one with advanced hospital type options. Talk to your physician to determine why a nursing home is the right choice and what the medical situation is so that you know what type of facility you are looking for.
- Do your homework. You cannot settle on a nursing home without a lot of advanced research. Don't make this a spur of the moment choice. Instead start your research by contacting the facilities in your area. Read the brochures and online reviews for different opinions. Talk to your doctor for recommendations as well.
- Schedule a visit. Once your research has narrowed your decision down to a manageable number of nursing homes, preferably between five and ten contact them to schedule a visit.
- Tour the facility. Schedule your tour so that it includes a glimpse at meal time as well as an activity time. After lunch or after dinner are the best times. This provides you a glimpse of how the facility handles the rush of a meal. Are residents left waiting in hallways or to fend for themselves? After the meal are they just taken back to their rooms or is there an activity? Walk through the facility's general open areas as well as a few of the resident's rooms. Get a feel for the windows, visitor areas and living space. Take a tour through outside areas as well.
- Pay attention to staff. Given the opportunity to tour the facility you should also pay special attention to the staff. Do they seem tired and overworked? Or are they friendly and upbeat? A brochure can easily state a staff to patient ratio that seems ideal but if that staff is hidden in offices and away from patients, the number may look better on paper than it is in reality. Use your own experience to watch staff interaction. Are the patients being treated the way you want to be treated?
- Consider the financial cost. No one wants to have to choose a facility based upon price alone. Still you want the best facility for your money so don't wait until the last moment to find out about the costs, especially the hidden costs. Weigh the costs and strain they may place upon the rest of the family as part of your decision from the start and you won't end up with resentment or the need to change your mind to find a less expensive facility.
- Trust your instincts. You may walk into a facility and it doesn't feel right even when the price and brochure seemed perfect. Your senses pick up on things your conscious brain may not notice. A raw or medicinal scent might cause you to tense when you enter the facility. You might just get a vibe that makes you feel a little off. You might also get the opposite effect and feel comfortable in a nursing home that you weren't sure you would like. Trust these signs.
Choosing a nursing home is difficult but important. The decision will take time and patience so start planning early before a medical emergency or crisis.