Now that you have an idea of needed services, try to get a list of possible homes to investigate. Ask your loved one’s physician, friends and members of your caregiver group (if you have one) who have used homes for their opinions.
First-hand experience can be very helpful. Also call the nursing home ombudsman at local elder care organizations for your area. Try to get specific information about the type of care received by residents of the facility, for how long, and what they liked or disliked like about the services received. However, remember that your needs may differ. Someone may be very positive about a home that won’t match your loved one’s needs.
Before scheduling a visit to the nursing homes you are interested in, call the admissions office for each one to conduct a quick survey to see if they meet your basic needs. Ask about vacancy availability, if they keep a waiting list and how it’s managed, if they have short-term beds, admission requirements, levels of care provided (e.g. a dementia unit if you need one, hospice services, etc.), and participation in government-funded financial assistance options.
Asking about short-term beds is important for several reasons:
- Emergency situations: Your loved one may need rehabilitation after an injury or medical situation. Also, if your loved one’s stay turns into a long-term care situation, it’s much easier to work with a home to transfer them to a long term care unit than to a new facility.
- Your loved one’s need for long-term care may occur suddenly and no long-term beds may be available at any of your preferred homes at that time. If they have a short-term bed available, they may accept your loved one in anticipation of a long-term bed soon becoming available.
If a nursing home accepts Medicare and Medicaid insurance, they must meet federal participation requirements to be certified. Surveys are conducted periodically to determine if a home complies or does not comply with these requirements. Enforcement actions may also be recommended to rectify certain areas of non-compliance.
You should acquaint yourself with the types of information gathered on surveys as it may prompt you to ask certain questions when you visit a nursing home. You can then compare their responses to the averages for other homes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) provides a wealth of information on survey results.
Look for the latest “Nursing Home Data Compendium” discussing how surveys are conducted and a second section providing summary data by state. Here you can find information on, for example, how many residents received anti-psychotic drugs, or had bed sores, weight loss or other undesirable outcomes for comparison with data from your nursing home interviews. Be sure to check the “Special Focus Facility Background Info and List” for those homes with serious quality issues.
Though not something that will help you narrow your choices, if you’re interested you can also find information on the nursing home certification process from CMS.