Choosing a Nursing Home

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If you are thinking about a nursing home for yourself or for a loved one, you might realize that this choice is both difficult and painful. Giving up a home to move in with others represents a loss of liberty to some individuals. But, to others, it may represent the beginning of a whole new life.

We’ve listed a few tips on how to choose a nursing home, along with more tips on what to ask when you visit.

  • Plan in advance. Do your investigation long before you may think you need a home, as it may take some time to visit these homes and to make a decision.
  • Get recommendations. You also may need help in filling out the various forms that nursing homes require.
  • Do not visit a nursing home alone. It may prove too difficult, and a friend or relative may help by asking questions that you may forget to ask.
  • Be open-minded. Accept that no nursing home is perfect, and that other people may provide care differently than you do. If you have a negative visit on one day, return on a different day to see if matters are different. Revisit those nursing homes you initially rejected for nonessential reasons.
  • Pick a convenient location first. A nursing home that is convenient and close at hand will be easier for you to visit.
  • Observe the buildings and staff. Is the building clean and relatively odor-free, well lit and attractive? Are safety features such as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors obvious and in good order?
  • Observe the patients or clients: Do they seem satisfied, if not happy? Are they well dressed, or sloppy in appearance (hair not combed, etc.). Does it appear that these clients are tended with care?

Questions and Observations:

  • Look at size. Larger nursing homes may be surprisingly less expensive yet offer more activities and services.
  • Check about medical services. Are the costs included? Are visits from personal physicians allowed? Is a registered nurse on the premises at all times, and is a doctor in-house or on call? Is the nursing home close to a hospital if needed?
  • Ask about residential services. Is there a special unit for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease? Is patient variety important, or would you or your loved one prefer to live with residents from similar ethnic or religious backgrounds?
  • Ask about admission. Is there a waiting list? Can you fill out forms in advance? Is a physical examination required for admission, and who should conduct that exam?
  • Ask about financing. This is especially important if a nursing home is an immediate need. Is that home eligible for Medicare and/or Medicaid? What services are included in the cost, and what services cost extra?
  • Ask about food. Is a dietitian on staff and are the portions big enough? Is the food good and good for you? Is there help for individuals who may have trouble eating?
  • Ask about activities. Does the home provide activities for clients who can participate?
  • Ask about the living facilities. Can the client bring personal furniture, pictures, plants or other objects? Is there a closet and chest of drawers and privacy for dressing? Is there an available phone? How many people reside in one room?

You can visit the Medicare site, where they offer ideas about how to choose a nursing home. If the home you choose has a Web site, look the site over before you visit. The Web site may answer some questions above, so all you need to do on your visit is to confirm that the Web site was correct.

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