Searching for a nursing home, assisted living facility or group home online is just the beginning when choosing a safe place for you loved one. Once you’ve narrowed down a list of facilities that best fit your loved one’s needs, you’ll want to take a tour. Here are 5 things to look for when touring a nursing home, assisted living facility, or group home:
1.) Location, location, location. In narrowing down options for a loved one, you most likely will choose places close by so that you or other loved ones can visit often. But more than proximity to you, you’ll want to consider the location of the facility itself. For instance, if your loved one is prone to wandering, you may not want him or her to live in a place on a busy road, lake, etc… – especially if the facility doesn’t have a Wanderguard system that prevents confused residents from wandering.
2.) First impressions are everything. This is exactly why the facility will put their best foot forward when giving you a tour. It’s because of this that you’ll want to take advantage of any alone time you’re given. For instance, if you’re waiting in the lobby before the tour and see some residents, talk to them. Ask them about their experience. If you see family members of residents, ask them if they’re happy with the treatment their loved one is getting.
Also, if you’re in a nursing home, keep an eye out for the official inspection report in the lobby. They are required by law to make their most recent report available for public viewing. Feel free to ask where it is, assistance in interpreting it, and how they have addressed inspection violations in the report.
3.) Observe everything as you go. This is an important one. Take note of the other residents in the home – how they’re interacting with each other and the staff. Does the tour guide say hi to residents as (s)he walks by? Does (s)he know them by name? If a resident is calling out for help, see how the staff or your tour guide handles it. If the resident is being ignored, that’s an indication of how your loved one will be treated. The staff should never yell at a resident hard of hearing, but rather enunciate or speak in a slightly louder tone.
Smell is a good indication of the cleanliness of the facility and whether or not there’s an issue. Odors typically indicate that linens aren’t being changed promptly, bedsores aren’t being treated properly, floors are unclean, etc… It could also indicate that the residents aren’t being cared for with regular showers or clean clothes.
This is another thing that’s good to note: how do the residents look? Have they put effort into their appearance (i.e. jewelry, accessories, painted nails)? Does their hygiene look satisfactory? However, keep in mind that a disheveled resident may be nothing more than a long day.
Take note of the décor, as well. Are there painting, lamps or other things placed in common areas to make it feel homier? What do you see around for entertainment? You’ll most likely see a TV, but are there puzzles, a daily newspaper, or an activity calendar?
4.) Peek inside some of the resident’s rooms. You most likely will be shown a room that is spacious and well decorated, so you’ll want to peek at other rooms as you walk by. Is this the case for other residents who live there? Also, if a facility has rooms that house more than one person, ask to see it. It’ll give you a better understanding of how your loved one will live alongside others. In seeing this, you’ll want to take note of the space around and between the beds and the walls. If your loved one has a wheelchair, you’ll want to consider this, as well.
If you’re sensitive of privacy, you’ll also want to see how the tour guide shows you a resident’s room. If (s)he opens up a closet with the resident’s permission, this is a red flag. If your loved one will be sharing a room, check to see if there are curtains or dividers between the beds of a semi-private room.
Lastly, you’ll want to take a look at what the residents are doing when you walk past their bedrooms. Are they walking around, sitting up, reclining in their beds, or lying in bed. Although the staff cannot keep a resident awake and alert all day, it is not a good sign to have a majority of residents lying in bed, as this puts residents at risk for bedsores. This will also tell you how active the community is. If your loved one wants to socialize, this may not be the best place for your loved one.
5.) The best time of day to visit is during mealtime. This is when a facility shows its true colors. Since it can be hectic with residents coming in and out, this is your best chance to see the staff’s true interaction with residents. You’ll probably notice that the dining hall isn’t big enough to seat all the residents. This is normal. Most residents don’t eat at the same time, residents who cannot feed themselves may have a special table with nursing aides, and some facilities allow the residents to eat in their rooms. You’ll want to ask what the policy is on this if you or your loved one have a preference.
This is also a great opportunity to ask about their menu. What is being done to serve nutritious options? If a loved one has a dietary restriction, how do they accommodate? Lastly, look at the food they are serving. Better yet – give it a try yourself if you can! If this isn’t an option, take a look at the menu for the week (this is usually posted) and see if the meals sound appetizing. The effort they put into the kitchen is a good indication of the effort they put in throughout the facility.
BONUS TIP: Keep notes during your tour or immediately after. This will help you remember the pros and cons of each facility you tour. Once you’ve completed your tours, this is your opportunity to revert back to your lists and make a decision based on what’s most important to you and your loved one.
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