When the time comes for us to place parents and loved ones in nursing or assisted living care, our first concern is safety. We all know that elder abuse is an ugly reality that we cannot ignore. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, elder abuse affects as much as ten percent of the population older than 60, and many cases go unreported – as many as 13 of every 14 instances.
The Covid-19 pandemic has increased isolation in nursing homes, making our elderly population increasingly vulnerable. What can we do to be sure we’re finding a quality nursing home or residential care for our loved one.
Choosing a Nursing Home
A great resource titled Your Guide for Choosing a Nursing Home is provided by Medicare. It explains how to find and compare nursing homes and other long-term services and supports and provides a checklist for comparing facilities as you go through the process.
The following steps can help you investigate a facility’s quality of care.
- Ask your doctor if/where he or she provides care and if they recommend the facility.
- Visit Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare to compare the ratings, programs, and levels of care at nursing homes in your area of interest.
- Call your Long-Term Care Ombudsman. To find their contact information, go to Itcombudsman.org.
A Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and other adult care facilities. They work to resolve residents’ problems and to bring about changes at the local, state, and national levels that will improve residents’ care and quality of life. These duties include: ■ Visiting nursing homes and speaking with residents throughout the year to make sure residents’ rights are protected ■ Working with you to solve problems with your nursing home care, including financial issues ■ Discussing general information with you about nursing homes, resident’s rights, and care ■ Answering questions, like how many complaints they’ve gotten about a specific nursing home, what kind of complaints they were, and if the issues were resolved in a timely manner The ACL supports the National Ombudsman Resource Center, which has contact information for each States’ Long-Term Care Ombudsman. To get the contact information for your local ombudsman program office, use the Eldercare Locator at eldercare.gov or visit ltcombudsman.org.
You can find the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or visit eldercare.gov.
Check Out Quality of Care
- Call your state health department or state licensing agency. Look in the blue pages in the phone book or on the internet. Ask for written reports on the quality of care given in local nursing homes. You can also ask for a copy of the full survey or the last complaint investigation report.
- Look at survey findings (CMS Form 2567) for the facility. They can be found on Nursing Home Compare at Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare and in the nursing home.
- Ask to look at the nursing home’s grievance procedure and their record of grievances.
- Ask about the kind of ongoing training the staff receives. Being a successful certified nursing assistant requires a great deal of knowledge. To successfully deal with patients, co-workers, it’s vitally important that CNAs stay aware of the latest information on medical advancements, wellness, and patient care. This is why continuing education is a legal requirement of doing the job. Continuing education helps keep nursing assistants up to date on many critical, ever-changing subjects including:
- Personal and patient safety
- Data collection and reporting
- Mental health care
- Infectious disease
These steps can help you assess the home’s environment and fit for your loved one’s medical needs and lifestyle preferences.
Visit the nursing home and assess the quality of care, services, environment, food, patient well-being. Make an appointment when you visit, but also visit again without an appointment.
- Ask to see menus.
- Find out who the house doctor is.
- Is transportation provided to community events?
- Check out the types of therapy offered.
- Ask about the patient/CNA ratio.
- Ask about ongoing staff training.
- Request violation reports.
- Are adequate public spaces provided?
- How do residents access mental health services?
- Are doors and windows secured?
- Do residents’ rooms have adequate space?
- Are rehabilitation services available?
- Is skilled nursing provided?
- Does the facility provide access to health specialists? How are they accessed?
- Is the decor appealing, and is the facility well-maintained?
- Are chapel services and recreational and social opportunities provided?
One Size Does Not Fit All
Other suggestions include asking people whose opinions you trust about the quality and reputation of various care facilities. However, keep in mind that just because a friend recommends a nursing home doesn’t mean it will be the right fit for your loved one, who may prefer more privacy, more social opportunities, or a quiet reading library. And be sure to ask residents what they like most and least about living where they live. You can almost always trust them to express their honest opinions.
And be sure to download a copy of the checklist available at Medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/checklist.pdf.
Remember, every caregiving situation is unique and reflect unique families and needs. Make the best decision you can, based upon the best information you can gather. No situation will be perfect and no choice has to be forever. Choose as wisely as you can, and give yourself grace.
We’d love to hear from you. What helped you assist your love as they transitioned to a care facility? Tell us about it.