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How to Find the Best Nursing Home for Your Loved One

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For the past few months, my grandmother has been in and out of nursing homes. This has given me the opportunity to see different kinds of facilities. My grandmother suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The experience of finding the right home for her was quite difficult. Now that I am more familiar with this process, I want to share some recommendations on what to look for in order to ensure the best quality of care.

As you embark on this journey of visiting nursing homes, remember to keep in mind what matters to you the most. Is it the size of the rooms? Or is it the type of therapy your loved one will receive? 

Getting Started

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To start our search, we made appointments at two different nursing facilities. The first nursing home had a grand fountain in the lobby, almost resembling a five-star hotel entrance. However, as the tour began, the rooms did not serve up to our expectations.

We ended up choosing the other nursing home that is 20 miles from my house. It is a nice facility, but the location makes it difficult to visit my grandmother as often as I would like. At dinner time there is heavy traffic, leaving no time to get my homework done if I go to visit.

If I could go through the process of choosing a nursing home again, I would take the location into account. I’d tour more homes in order to find my grandmother the best care and facility possible.

As you start your own search, this is what I recommend:

  • Set up the tour. You will need to set up a tour of the nursing home by calling the facility and asking to speak with someone in admissions. As you drive to the facility, think about its location. A shorter distance will allow for more frequent visits and will reduce your levels of stress due to traffic.
  • Move past first impressions. Nursing homes try to make a good first impression when you walk through the front door. The entrance and lobby are typically the most aesthetically pleasing parts of a home. I recommend looking beyond the lobby to see what life is really like in the home.
  • Meet your guide. Your tour guide will meet and greet you in the lobby. Some tours have a pre-planned route, while others may not, creating a tour based on your recommendations. Do not hesitate to ask questions before, during, and after the tour.

Residents’ Rooms

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One of my grandmother’s top priorities was the nursing home’s cleanliness and noise levels. My grandmother loves to sleep, so my family wanted to make sure her room was comfortable and quiet.

On your tour, you will pass through the halls. Your tour guide may show you a particular room, but remember to peak into random rooms since not all the rooms are the same. Your guide may only show a staged room, which can seem more impressive than most of the rooms truly are.

Rooms range in size from one to four residents. The three- to four-person rooms can become crowded, so make sure to request to see them. Take a look around. Notice the size of the closet, whether the TVs are in good condition, and if there is a personal bathroom.

Recreation

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Since your loved one is away from home and family, the feeling of loneliness may kick in. Choose a facility with group activities.

Your tour guide will take you to the recreation room where activities for the residents are held on a daily basis. Make sure to look at the activities calendar, which should be posted in the lobby or hallways. Types of activities range from singing to morning stretches to manicures.

A good nursing home will encourage all residents to participate by stopping by each room to personally invite them to events. Some recreation workers may play games with residents in their rooms if they are unable to attend. 

Dining

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The dining room is an important stop on your tour. Although the facility may have 80 residents, the dining room may only seat 40 to 50. Do not be alarmed. Other residents may eat in their rooms depending on whether they need assistance.

My grandmother needs assistance when eating, so we usually stop by around mealtimes to help. If your loved one needs assistance, you should make sure that there are enough nurses available. Residents who cannot feed themselves may eat in smaller lounges where a nurse can help those in need.

Look for a board in the front lobby where menus for the month are posted. Check with the staff if they can make special accommodations by serving ethnic items or if they allow food to be brought in.

Therapy

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Therapy is a crucial component of aging gracefully. Many facilities have a separate physical therapy room equipped with weights and exercise machines. I also came across the idea of “reminiscence therapy” as I talked to various nurses in these homes.

The idea of “reminiscence therapy”, often used for Alzheimer’s patients, has taken the medical field by storm. According to the American Psychological Association, reminiscence therapy is “the use of life histories – written, oral, or both – to improve psychological well-being.” Since Alzheimer patients can be prone to memory loss and confusion, sensory cues that involve sight, sound, and touch can be utilized to help revive lost memories.

An elder-care facility in Pennsylvania has recently implemented this type of therapy. Patients at this nursing home can relax in a vintage living room with a wood-paneled radio or sit in a kitchen that is furnished with a cast-iron stove and wringer washing machine. There is also a hallway that allows patients to take a trip down memory lane – the walls are covered with images of travel, marriage, parenthood, and cars. Since then, other homes have tapped into this reminiscence therapy.

A thorough treatment based on your loved one’s needs is highly recommended. Since my grandmother struggles with dementia, we are looking into this type of therapy.

Overall Experience

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When we first started looking at nursing homes for my grandmother, my family and I had no idea what to look for or expect. I wish someone had told us the “do’s” and “don’ts” to help support our decision.

Despite the lack of research, we found a nice facility with caring staff members. My grandmother is being well taken care of. I hope my experience and tips help you find the right home for your loved one. 

Comments

2:14 PM on October 6, 2016 Retta Stein
Thank you for the tips!
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