Researching Nursing Homes
Many seniors insist that they "never want to go to a nursing home." Although adult children may do their very best to keep parents at home as long as possible, it's still possible that a nursing home (also referred to as a "skilled nursing facility" or a "SNF" by the medical community (pronounced "sniff")) may be the best alternative for providing the level of care that is needed.
In last week's post, I reviewed some considerations if you are looking into memory care facilities. This week, I’m offering five recommendations if you need to research skilled nursing facilities for a family member.
Start with the Nursing Home Compare online tool. Skilled nursing facilities are regulated by the federal government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes its ratings for different nursing homes online at Nursing Home Compare. This online tool is a good place to start your research into different skilled nursing alternatives. Nursing Home Compare provides ratings in four areas: overall rating, health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. Each of these factors is rated on a scale of one to five. Users can drill down into additional detail about health and fire safety inspections, staffing, quality of resident care, and penalties. They can also compare different facilities.
I found the Nursing Home Compare information to be a useful resource. Before I toured a nursing home, I always reviewed the Nursing Home Compare ratings. In-person visits are a good forum for asking questions related to penalties, as well as citations related to health or fire safety. While Nursing Home Compare is a good source of quantitative information about skilled nursing facilities, it's also important to gather qualitative information.
Ask friends for recommendations. As with memory care facilities, word of mouth information is one of the best ways to find out about which nursing homes are good and which are lacking.
Inquire about staff turnover. Like memory care facilities, nursing home staff turnover is often a good indicator of employee engagement and satisfaction with their working conditions. Data about staffing ratios is available in Nursing Home Compare.
Use your eyes, ears, and nose. When visiting nursing homes, pay attention to odors and the general cleanliness of the facility. In some cases, the public areas like the lobby or other visiting areas will be clean and impressive, while resident rooms and corridors are not. Are residents engaged in activities (if they are able) or are they sitting around in the hallways disengaged? Does the facility have a public address system that's constantly paging employees and creating a disruptive environment?
Observe resident and staff interactions. On tours, see if you can observe employees interacting with residents. Usually the tour guide will be jovial, greeting everyone by name and asking how they are. However, try to discreetly observe how the aides and nurses treat the residents when they don't feel like they're in the "limelight" of a tour. Also, observe whether the residents generally look clean and relatively content.
The move to a nursing home is something that all children and parents dread. However, I will say that the story doesn't always have to have a sad ending. Fortunately, I was successful in finding a very good skilled nursing facility where my Mom is now thriving. She has gained weight due to eating a balanced diet and her physical health overall is good. The activities team keeps the residents engaged with interesting programming each day. I have been very pleased with the care team and my Mom has told me, "If you have to be in a place like this, this is a good one. All the people here are very nice."
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