Long-Term Care: What to Look For

  • Most of us don’t make a habit of touring assisted living and nursing facilities, just for the heck of it. I guess there are more interesting things to do. But if you have any reason to believe a loved one may need a facility in the future, it doesn’t hurt to check out facilities so you have an idea of what is good and what is not.

    I had five loved ones in a nursing facility, for different lengths of time, for a total of about 15 years. I definitely have opinions. To me, no matter how fancy the facility, how modern, how many frills - to me it’s still the staff that is most important.

    The CNAs (aides) generally have the most direct contact with the residents, and they can make the day for your loved one – or ruin it. It would be great if every person who worked with your elder was a “special” friend, and, realistically, this isn’t going to happen. If everyone is lucky, there may be a special one or two people who your folks love the most. But, you want to know that they are treated well by all the staff.
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    When you visit facilities, see how the staff interacts with the residents. Go at different times of day. Go on different days of the week. Watch how the lower level staff is treated by management. This can give you a feel for the quality of the facility. Is there respect and professionalism? Courtesy? Or is there a real feeling of a caste system? Again, everyone has some days that are better than others, but you can get a general feel about the quality of the place by how staff treat one another.

    There are many other things to look for than I’m listing below, but these are a few you can look into:

    - How do the residents look? Are they neat and clean, the men shaven, the women’s hair combed. Are people’s nails trimmed?

    - Are memory impaired or confused patients out of bed and dressed? Are they treated with compassion?

    - Does the facility post a menu and do they serve what is planned?

    - Are the grounds well-maintained and are the walkways clear?

    - Are some of the residents outside on nice days?

    - Is the facility clean, overall, within reason? Are the bathrooms clean?

    - Does the facility have a recreation director, and are there activities for residents of different abilities and interests?

    - Is a nursing care plan prepared for each patient and is this plan discussed with the family?

    - Is there a licensed nurse on duty during all shifts?

    - Does the staff interact with the patients and families in a friendly, respectful manner?

    - Is there a patient’s resident council and family council?

    The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living have a useful combined site that can help answer many of your questions. Go to www.longtermcareliving.com and see how much they have to offer.

    Also, contact your state office of AARP or go to www.aarp.org and/or www.consumerreports.org and type long-term care in the search boxes. Both sites have good information.

    For more information about Carol go to www.mindingourelders.com or www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.
Published On: January 05, 2007