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Top 5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Home

Posted on: Jul 24, 2019

There are many reasons why people realize that life in a senior living community is the best option for them. With so many benefits, including the ability to socialize with a community of their peers, receiving personalized assistance with basic care needs and having access to necessary medical care, retirement communities are equipped to meet a wide range of senior living needs.

Retirement communities offer various senior living options including independent living, personal care, skilled nursing, memory care and more. Each senior living community provides unique and specialized benefits to those who choose to call them home.

For many, the idea of moving into a senior living community isn’t what they had in mind for their golden years; however, most who make the decision are pleasantly surprised and wish they had made the transition sooner. Even if you could provide for someone’s extensive care needs at home, like 24-hour attention, many times, the full package of benefits and services offered at a senior living community is still the best option for a person who requires specialized care, as well as, for the family care providers who would be required to step up to provide that care.

Making the decision of which senior living option is best for you and your circumstances is much easier if you take time to research the options available to determine which will best meet your long-term care needs. With this in mind, it’s important you begin the process of looking at your options long before you find yourself forced to decide due to unforeseen, unfortunate circumstances. It also gives those who will be making the move, time to gradually accept the idea that such a move is best for them. Unfortunately, circumstances, such as a rapid decline in mental or physical health, often requires that immediate decisions be made.

Although we’re looking specifically at skilled nursing, these considerations are important in the selection of any retirement community or senior living option.

What is a Nursing Home?

Skilled nursing homes, often also referred to as retirement homes, care homes, rest homes, convalescent homes, homes for the elderly and many other names, provide residential care (often including around-the-clock nursing care) to older adults.

Much of the care in a nursing home is provided by certified nurses’ aides, hence the term “skilled nursing.” Certified skilled nursing homes, like PPH, are required by federal law to have a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) onsite at all times, with an RN present no less than eight hours a day, seven days a week.

Some residents utilize the services of a nursing home for a short rehabilitative stay following hospitalization. After their recovery, they return home. Most people, however, live in a skilled nursing home permanently, because they have ongoing physical or mental conditions that require constant care or supervision.

Top 5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Nursing Home

If the person who will be moving into any retirement community, including a skilled nursing home, is still able to make sound decisions and is able to make their wishes known, it’s very important to find out what their preferences are and to act accordingly.

It can be challenging to make a final decision concerning a senior living placement. If you, the person requiring placement, or other family members cannot agree, you may want to seek the services of a professional like a social worker or doctor to help you with the decision. Whatever you are searching for and whatever care needs are required, these key considerations should help you select the best senior living option for your personal wants and needs.

#1 — Size and Location

Location can be one of the most important factors to consider as you work to find the best senior living option for yourself or someone else. For many, it’s important that the community is as close to family as possible, making it easy for relatives or friends to visit frequently.

The size of the community can also be important as well. The choice of size should be based on the preferences and unique personality of the person requiring care. If they are more introverted and quieter, they may be happier in a smaller senior living setting. If they are outgoing and extroverted, their needs may be better met in a larger retirement community that is bustling with a wide variety of activities.

If the person requiring care is a social butterfly and enjoys interacting with lots of people, a community with multiple opportunities for socialization is ideal. If they enjoy spending time outside, look for a community that has outdoor areas available for its residents to enjoy. Check out all outdoor areas and make sure they are accessible and safe. Look around the community and make sure it offers both quiet areas and activity spaces, allowing residents to decide how they want to spend their days. A good way to tell if a community is a good fit is checking their services, amenities and resident programs.

#2 — Benefits and Services

Although all nursing homes offer long-term care and many of the same basic care services, each nursing home offers their own unique set of benefits and services; therefore, it’s important to determine which benefits and services are most important to you and find communities that best meet your needs. Some benefits and services will be essential to meet your needs; others are nice to have and are important to maintain a high quality of life.

Meals and the dining experience are often very important for those who live in a nursing home; therefore, be sure to visit during mealtime on several occasions and eat a few of the meals to make sure they’ll satisfy your dining needs and requirements before making a final decision. Check to make sure residents are given food choice options, as well. Find out how the community provides options for those with special dietary requirements and if they help residents who need assistance eating or drinking. Find out what type of nutritious snacks are offered, how often snacks are routinely served and if snacks are available at other times when requested.

What other activities, benefits or services are important to make your experience better and provide the best quality of life? Does the community plan activities around the interests of each resident? Ask about your particular interests and how they will be accommodated by the community. Do you have special healthcare needs? For example, if you require rehabilitative services, are those services provided onsite? If the person needing care has dementia, does the community have a specialized memory care unit?

#3 — Staffing

The team of people who provide for residents’ care play a significant role in the lives of every resident. They are the people who will meet your needs and keep you safe. Their attitude, expertise and professionalism will impact your life on an ongoing, daily basis. Spend time in the community, observing how the staff interact with the residents and how they interact with each other. Ask plenty of questions. No question is too small or unimportant.

Do staff members provide professional care with the expertise you expect? Are they warm, polite and respectful towards the residents and towards each other? Does the atmosphere in the community feel relaxed or stressed? How are unexpected surprises, such as toileting accidents, handled? Does the staff knock on the resident’s doors before entering the resident’s rooms?

Ask what type of training or certification is required for the staff. Ask about ongoing training and how frequently it occurs. Ask the administrator if they hire people who have any record of mistreatment or neglect in the nurse aide registry.

A licensed nurse (RN or LPN) should be onsite, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An RN should be onsite no less than eight continuous hours of every day. Ask if these guidelines are being met.

If the person requiring care has any needs that you have concerns about the community being able to meet, ask how the community plans to work with you to meet those needs. Ask about employee retention. A retirement community with a lot of employee turnover, especially in the administrative ranks, can be a sign of underlying issues and problems.

#4 — Living Independently and Choices

Moving into a retirement community is a big step. It’s generally stressful and scary for most people. The desire to be able to make choices for yourself doesn’t change just because you move into a senior living community. Obviously, some changes and adaptations will need to take place; however, you should be able to have the freedom to make choices about your life as long as you are mentally capable.

Our lives are filled with lots of choices, and despite how insignificant some of those choices seem, they often determine our everyday happiness and quality of life. Things like what activity you want to take part in, what side item you want to eat, what show you want to watch on TV and what time you want to get up in the morning or go to sleep at night all make up our days and determine our happiness. If being able to make these choices for yourself is important for your happiness and you’re still mentally capable of making such decisions, then it’s critical you find a senior living community that allows you to make these choices and decisions for yourself… not someplace where your every move is controlled and dictated by staff members.

#5 — Things to Watch Out for and Avoid

So far, we’ve looked at things you want to have available to you — things important to have for your happiness and quality of life. Now we’re going to look at situations and scenarios you want to avoid… red flags signaling danger and senior living community situations you want to avoid.

Poor Violation History

Skilled nursing homes are regulated at both the state and federal levels. They are surveyed regularly to make sure basic standards are being met. With a bit of online research, you can determine which senior living communities you should avoid due to violations and low standards.

Severe Violations

Consider the level of any violations. Minor violations may include having a cobweb in the basement or the incorrect placement of a soap dispenser; whereas, a violation for allowing one of their residents to wander off campus is a much more severe situation and one to be truly concerned about. Whatever the violation, if you are considering that nursing home, ask the administrator what they have done to remedy any violations.

Administrator Competence and Accessibility

The community’s administrator sets the tone for the entire community. When staff is stressed or overworked, this raises an immediate red flag of poor administration. An entire community can be made ineffective through the actions of a poor administrator.

Additionally, the administrator serves as the primary contact for family members for many years to come. If you have problems getting in touch with the administrator, or they don’t return your calls, you might want to try a different senior living community with a more responsive administrator.

Gut Feeling

It’s important for you to trust your gut when making your selection. From the smell or cleanliness of the community to respectfulness of the staff to residents appearing to be stressed or unhappy, you may find yourself not feeling good about certain communities. You may not even be able to pinpoint anything out of place, yet you still have a feeling… there’s a reason for that feeling. Just trust it and move on in your pursuit of the right community for you and your situation.

Explore the Superior Skilled Nursing Care at PPH

Finding and choosing the right senior living community can be a challenging process, but by taking these five factors into consideration, you’re more likely to be happy with your final selection. These considerations can help you avoid the nightmares that many people experience when moving into the wrong nursing home. Take time to do your research. Trust your gut. Keep a positive attitude. Soon, you’ll find the best senior living option for you and your situation.

PPH offers various levels of senior living care options — independent living, memory care, personal care and skilled nursing & rehabilitation —  providing families with superior options when faced with the need or desire to utilize the services of a retirement community. Contact us today and find out how well we meet the needs and wishes of someone wanting an extraordinary retirement living experience.

What Residents Say

"In my two years at PPH, I’ve grown to like it very much. At first, I felt like a stranger and then as I began to talk to people, we increasingly became good friends. A way to meet people is to join clubs. I’m now part of the PPH Auxiliary. I love helping with their flea markets because you never know what you can find. Recently, I’ve joined an evening quilting class. I love that I can continue to enjoy my life outside of PPH while experiencing the offers here.….especially the pool! Everything is just so convenient.

– Lucille Hite, Independent Living resident

What Families Say

"My mom is sooo happy at PPH, I can’t even describe it in strong enough words. She’s met so many new friends and these ladies do EVERYTHING together! She sees Dad every day in Pathways, but can have her life too. She’s gone to so many activities and I think I’ve already been to Scoops with her at least 15 times. She loves the dining room and Bistro too. My sister, Ilene, and I are so delighted that Mom is happy.......Wow, it feels like Mom’s been there about 2 years—but it’s only 2 months!! That’s how comfortable and natural it feels for her – and for all of us.

– Rhonda Frenkel, daughter of residents Jack & Bernice Segal