5 Questions to Ask Nursing Homes Before You Decide Which Is Right For Your Loved One

The baby boomer generation is aging, and many people are faced with the difficult decision of whether to put their parents or spouses into nursing homes, or move into one themselves. According to a recent survey by the Center for Disease Control, there are over 16,100 nursing homes in the United States, serving close to 1.5 million residents. Even if entering a managed care situation is the best choice for you or your loved ones, the quality of care at these facilities can vary greatly.

Here are five questions to ask nursing homes to help you decide which facility will be the best fit for your loved one.

1. Is the facility accredited and certified?

There are two important certifications to look for when choosing which facility is right for your loved one. The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) is a not-for-profit organization that inspects properties throughout the United States for safety standards and quality control. Facilities that are certified have strict guidelines for infection prevention and medication management, and earn JCAHO’s “Gold Seal of Approval.” The second certification to ask about is the one provided by Medicare. If you plan to use Medicare benefits to pay for the facility, then you must utilize one that is accredited by the organization.

2. What are the official policies?

When it comes to care facilities it’s important not to make any assumptions. While they all may be certified by the same organizations, their approaches, rules, and regulations can be completely different. Be sure to understand how the facility operates so that you know what to expect. Will you or your loved one still be allowed to use your own doctors, or must you use their medical staff? Are there visiting hours available? Are pets allowed? How much autonomy do residents have? Can they choose when to eat, bathe, and watch TV, or are those choices made for them? The answers to these questions and more can really help you narrow down your options when selecting the right environment.

3. What kind of training has your staff undergone and how do they interact with residents?

Nursing homes are live-in facilities, and as such, the staff becomes caretakers, and in many cases like a second family. To that end, it’s important to understand the staffing situation at the facility. Ask questions about the tenure of the staff, the ratio of staff to patients, and take some time to talk with staff that you see during your tour. Are they busy or rushed? Are they pleasant and caring? It’s easy to tell if a facility is understaffed simply by how the staff behaves. Also enquire about the number of RN’s available, if they employ a social worker, and if there is a doctor on staff. This will give you a clear picture of how able they are to meet the needs of their residents.

4. What’s there to do?

The facilities offer a variety of activities on a daily basis, and knowing what these are can help you decide on a facility. Ask about what they commonly do on holidays, what the daily activity schedule looks like, and if there are opportunities to use recreational areas during unscheduled times. Forming friendships and having things to do are essential to quality of life, so understand your options before making a decision.

5. What does the fee schedule look like?

While quality of care is extremely important, so is the cost of the facility you choose. Nursing homes are required by law to spell out their detailed fee structure in writing and will gladly give you a copy to take so that you can compare your options. Never assume something is included in the monthly rate, and be sure to understand if activities, meal choices, or physical therapy will involve extra charges. If you have access to any type of long-term care insurance, this is a good time to determine if it is accepted at the facility of your choice, and how it will work and pay out.

The decision to use a managed care facility is a life changing one. By asking these five questions and taking the time to explore your options, you’re sure to make the right choice that both meets your needs and fits your budget.