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Ten Tips for Choosing a Good Nursing Home

“Choosing” a good nursing home may seem like a poor title, since most of us do not choose to go into a nursing home at all. Nevertheless, many of us will wind up in one for some period of time. Unfortunately, when the time comes that we need nursing home care, we are not usually in a position to take a lot of time comparing the various options. Nevertheless, you are essentially shopping for a new home. Even if you plan to stay for only a short period, it is worthwhile to take some time selecting a good facility. The following tips should help you to make an informed choice.

1. Begin Planning for Long Term Care Before You Need It

The earlier you start planning, the better off you’ll be. If you start really early you may be able to get long term care insurance. Setting up a durable power of attorney may allow you to select a person to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. An estate planner may be able to help you set up a trust to take care of your health care needs. Starting early may also give you a shot at getting into a better nursing home that may have a waiting list.

2. Understand How You Will Pay for Nursing Home Care

Not only is nursing home care expensive, the methods of payment are complex. Some homes utilize “life care” contracts in which the patient pays a large lump sum up front, and the home agrees to care for them until death. Some homes accept only private payment on a monthly basis…period. If the funds run out, the patient must leave. Others will accept patients who are on Medicaid. Still others will accept Medicaid patients, but only if they pay out of pocket for a set number of months first. The important thing is to know what you are buying up front. It may be worthwhile to pay an attorney to look over the contract.

3. Choose a Nursing Home Near Your Family

Even in the best nursing home, it is helpful to have an advocate nearby who can make sure that you are receiving the best possible care. More importantly – if you wanted to see your family before you went to the home – you probably will still want to see them when you get there. Being nearby will help.

4. Visit Several Nursing Homes

Everyone has different personal tastes. In the end, you must feel comfortable in the facility. The only way to know where you will feel most comfortable, is to visit a couple of homes. The visit will also allow you to assess some key questions, such as: Is there sufficient staff for the number of residents? Is the staff friendly? Do the residents seem happy and well cared for?

5. Visit Again

Your first visit will usually be a guided tour of the facility. While this is helpful, you should return at another time for an unguided tour. Ideally it would be best to visit in the evening or on a weekend as staffing can be quite different during these times. You will need to let the home know that you are visiting (because of patient privacy and safety), but they should allow an unguided visit.

6. Seek Information About the Home from Other Sources

Obviously, the nursing home employees are going to put a good spin on things. There are, however, other sources who can give you the full story. Many homes have a “Resident’s Council” or “Family Council” which meets regularly to discuss whether resident needs are being met. If you can’t actually attend a meeting, you should be able to talk to one of the members. If there’s a problem in the home, they’ll know it. Your local Ombudsman can also be an excellent resource.

7. What Will I Do in the Nursing Home?

Good Question. All nursing homes claim to have activities for their residents. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes have the activities that you enjoy. Make sure they have activities that you like and that the program is large enough so that they can accommodate you.

8. Can you take care of me?

Not all nursing homes are good at dealing with all medical conditions. A facility with an excellent Alzheimer’s Care Unit may not be particularly good at Wound Care. It is important to understand the patient’s medical condition before finding the nursing home. Then ask about the home’s track record with these types of patients.

9. Eat the Food

As unpleasant as it may sound to have a meal at a nursing home, you, or your family member are going to be eating it every day. If its bad, you should know about it before you move in. This is especially important because poor nutrition can lead to a number of health problems all by itself. You may also want to check if they can meet any special dietary needs, religious and cultural preferences.

10. Use a Checklist

There are a lot of factors to evaluate when you visit at nursing home. Most experts suggest preparing a checklist to bring along to each home that you visit. If you prefer, there are several checklists available online that you can print and download.

Of course, there are many other considerations. It pays to ask friends, families and professionals for their thoughts. Hopefully these tips will give you a good starting point.


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