As some point in your life you may be faced with the prospect of choosing a nursing home for a parent, or other elderly loved one. If that time is now, you are undoubtedly concerned about making the right choice. After all, you have likely heard more than your share of horror stories about residents of nursing homes who have been abused and neglected by the staff and caregivers at the facility. Sadly, elder abuse is a real, and growing, concern in the United States and you are certainly justified in your concern for your parent’s safety; however, not all nursing homes provide substandard care and even fewer allow residents to be abused and neglected. The key is to take your time and do your research when selecting a nursing home for your loved one. Ultimately, only you can decide which facility is right for your loved one; however, the following tips for choosing a nursing home may help you make your decision.
- Know what you need. Before you even start your search, take some time to clarify exactly what your parent (or other loved one) needs in a nursing home. Write down anything and everything that would make a nursing home the perfect nursing home for your parent. Speak both with your parent (if he/she is able to contribute) and with treating physicians to determine what your parent’s medical and emotional needs are.
- Consider geography. If a spouse plans to remain in the community, you need a facility within a short car ride away from the community spouse. Likewise, if you, or another family member, will be responsible for regular visits and general oversight, you may want to look for a nursing home close to you or to other family members.
- Check with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Every state has an administrative agency that oversees nursing homes. In New Hampshire it is the Department of Health and Human Services. Complaints regarding nursing homes are filed with the agency, making it an excellent source of information.
- Make Use of “Nursing Home Compare.” The federal government’s Medicare website has a tool, referred to as “Nursing Home Compare” that allows you to gather invaluable information about facilities and compare nursing homes.
- Prepare questions. Once you have a shortened list of facilities, sit down and prepare a set of questions to ask each facility. Some common questions to ask include:
- What is the resident to staff ratio?
- What is the physician to nurse ratio?
- What type of meal plans do you offer?
- How large on the resident rooms and can we pick the room?
- What type of activities do you offer for residents?
- What is your procedure for complaints?
- Do you offer transportation for residents?
- What is your visitation policy?
- Make a scheduled visit. Schedule official visits and tours with the facilities that have made your “short list.” During these visits you will likely have the opportunity to speak to an administrator and ask many of your prepared questions regarding the staff and the facility.
- Make a surprise visit. An official scheduled visit will provide you with important information about the facility itself and the staff who work there; however, it may not show you the full picture. To really get the picture you need to show up unannounced and see how the facility looks when visitors are not expected.
- Talk to lessor staff. A nursing home that is trying to sell you on what they have to offer will make sure you have access to senior level staff and administrators during your scheduled tour. If you have the opportunity though, try and talk to less senior staff member such as nursing assistants, cooks, even janitors. These people have much less incentive to stretch the truth. In fact, you might be thoroughly surprised what you can learn from the average staff member!
- Trust your instincts. If you walk into a nursing home and immediately have a bad feeling about the facility you should trust that feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. Conversely, if you walk into a facility that feels right from the moment you walk in, it might just be the one.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the search for a nursing home, or other elder law legal issues, contact the experienced New Hampshire elder law attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.
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