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How to Find a High-Quality Nursing Home

Member Story

How to Find a High-Quality Nursing Home

Picture of Jeff  Kelly Lowenstein

This story provides families with a set of tips about how to find a high-quality nursing home for their loved one.

The Chicago Reporter
Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finding a high-quality nursing home can be time-consuming and stressful. Experts suggest these tips to make the process easier:

1. Begin the search before problems start
Many times, families don’t confront a parent’s deterioration until there’s a crisis, forcing a hasty decision. Making concrete plans when the senior’s health is strong can reduce conflict between seniors and their children about when the senior should move.

2. Involve the senior
Family members sometimes choose a nursing home without the input of the person who will be living there. Get the senior’s approval for the parts of the process in which they want to participate.

3. Vary visit times
Monitor how the home operates during different times of the day, outside of pre-set appointments. This prevents staff from only providing basic care—like dressing and feeding
residents, and watching their continence times—when they know the family will be dropping by. It also allows family to see if there are adequate staffing levels.

4. Do your research
* Nursing Home Compare has a searchable database of more than 95 percent of the nation’s nursing homes, listing their inspection results, staffing levels for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants, and ratings.

* The Illinois Department of Public Health has a searchable database that lists each home’s violation history, racial composition, number of residents and type of care provided.

5. Talk to residents, their families
Have a meal in the home’s cafeteria. Talk with residents about their life at the home, and ask social workers about staffing levels and turnover as well as about specific concerns you have for your family member. Observe interactions between staff and residents and determine whether they are warm or tense and hostile.

6. Consider distance
Quality is important. So are regular visits from family. A state-of-the-art facility that is 50 miles away may not be as desirable as a lesser-quality neighborhood facility.

7. Make it a family affair
Getting multiple family members involved in the process can allow the responsibility of a senior’s care to be shared, lessening the chance of blame among family members if something
goes wrong.

Sources: Nancy Nelson, manager of advocacy and outreach at Illinois AARP; Janet Wells, policy director for the Washington, D.C.,-based National Citizen’s Coalition for Nursing Home Reform; Joyce Gallagher, executive director of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services-Senior Services Area Agency on Aging; Neville Strumpf, a professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania; Wendy Meltzer, executive director of Illinois Citizens for Better Care.