Making the decision to place a parent or elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility is one many North Carolina families will face. Many families find themselves confronting the decision after a loved one’s life-changing injury or health crisis. It’s important to know the questions to consider and steps to take to make an informed choice. You want the peace of mind of feeling confident that the facility you select will provide your family member with attentive and respectful care.
Here are 10 straightforward tips for choosing the right long-term care facility for your loved one.
1. Discuss as a Family
Discuss the decision with family members. Make sure to involve the person who is actually going to be moving into a new home if possible. It can be easy for adult children to try to make decisions without involving their aging parent, but this is a mistake. Remember that the person you are talking about is still very much an adult who has rights.
2. Consider What Level of Care Your Loved One Will Need
Long-term care facilities offer different levels of care, from independent living to skilled nursing care. Make sure you and your loved one understand what type of placement is appropriate to meet his or her needs. The National Institute on Aging offers information to help you understand the various options available. As an example, if your family member has memory issues, you should look for a facility that has a memory unit and adequate resources to care for residents with those needs.
3. Visit the Facility First
This may seem like common sense, but it is surprising how many people place their beloved aging parent in a facility without taking a tour. You will learn a lot if you tour the facility and talk to the staff members. You may learn even more if you make a follow-up visit on the weekend.
In some cases, time may be a factor. When a senior is being discharged from the hospital, you may not have a lot of time to decide. Here are a few things you can do to buy time while you research further:
File an Appeal
About half of all nursing-home admissions follow at least a brief hospital stay, where you may get as little as 24 hours’ notice to find a facility. If the patient is on Medicare, tell hospital administrators that you want to appeal the discharge. This should give you two extra days to check out the nursing homes in your area.
Get on the List
Begin your search for a nursing home with the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116). They can give you crucial information about facilities near you.
Look Close to Home.
The closer you are to the nursing home, the more frequently you are likely to visit. The more you visit, the more the staff will get to know you. This humanizes your loved one, and it increases the chances that someone will let you know if there is a problem.
4. Ask Questions
You can speak to the administrator by phone, but visiting the nursing home in person may be more informative. There are some things you just have to see. For instance, here are just a few examples:
- What services are covered by monthly room and board?
- Are there separate a la carte services that are additional charges?
- What are the visiting hours?
- Is the facility locked after a certain time at night? What are the rules on visitation? Remember, this is going to be your loved one’s home.
- Can the staff show you the results of their last 3 survey inspections? If not, why?
- Do the rooms have emergency call systems for residents to summon staff?
- What types of organized social activities does the facility have for residents?
5. Do your Homework (don’t forget Google)
For those in rural areas, it can be harder to find suitable placement. You can start by searching for Medicare and Medicaid facilities. You can also go to the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation and search for the facilities. A wealth of information can be found there. Do your research, and learn as much as you can about the facilities.
Finally, you may want to contact the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation at (800) 624-3004.
6. Ask Around
Ask friends and relatives who may have loved ones in nursing homes. Seek their advice and recommendations. Sometimes the best suggestions come from those we know and trust. If a friend had a good experience, you have a better chance of having a good experience as well.
7. Trust Your Senses
When you visit, stay alert and take note of everything.
Does the staff treat residents with compassion and respect?
Have a meal with residents in the dining room to assess the quality of the food.
Does the long-term care facility appear to be clean and well-maintained? Do you notice odors in bathrooms or hallways? Are there wheelchairs scattered through the hall? Are residents sleeping at tables or in their wheelchairs? Are alarms going off with no one responding?
What precautions does the facility have to keep patients from wandering off?
8. Ask the Doctor
One of the most overlooked resources is your primary care physician. He or she is likely to be familiar with local facilities. He may not be willing to disparage a nursing home, but many doctors – especially if you and your loved one have developed a long history of rapport – will happily tell you the facilities they would choose.
9. Visit Often – Visit at Different Times
A lot of serious cases of nursing home abuse and neglect happen without the family being aware of a problem. You are much more likely to identify evidence of abuse or neglect if you visit your loved one regularly enough to observe unexplained changes in his or her behavior. One key rule for visiting is to drop by unannounced often. Yes, you may have a routine to see your mother or father every Sunday afternoon for dinner, but dropping in at 8:00 p.m. Friday may mean you get to see the late-night crew and offer additional insight into the operation of the facility.
10. Rise Concerns Immediately
Hopefully, you and your family will find a nursing home that is well suited for your aging parent or other loved one. If for any reason problems do arise, make sure you have a copy of North Carolina’s Guide to Nursing Home Negligence. Keep good notes on everything you see, hear, and observe at the nursing home. Document dates, times, and names of everyone who has spoken with you.
Under federal law, nursing home residents have specific rights that should be protected and honored. If you suspect that someone you love has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, contact the nursing home abuse attorneys Hardison & Cochran, Attorneys at Law for a confidential, free consultation. With over 30 years of experience helping injury victims throughout North Carolina, we have the experience and skills to fight the big nursing home corporations.