When you schedule a visit with a nursing home, you may not know where to begin. You might not be sure how to spot a good home from a poor nursing home. Beyond the basics, this checklist features 10 positive aspects of a nursing home to look for. If you can check these things off your list, the home is a good choice.
One of the most important factors that will affect your loved one’s happiness in a nursing home is their independence. The nursing home is your loved one’s home. They should have the freedom to eat, wake up, exercise, socialize, go to sleep, etc. when they want to. You should check to make sure that there are not severe restrictions on what your loved one can do and when they can do it. Having the ability to make choices in their day-to-day life will help your loved one feel confident and happy, and it will make the transition to living in a nursing home as smooth as possible.
In the nursing home, there should be a sense of community and even family among residents and staff members. The residents should for the most part get along and enjoy each other’s company, and the staff should be invested in making the nursing home as safe and happy as possible. The best nursing homes are the ones that view the home as a family. Staff and residents look out for one another and work well together towards a common goal. This sense of community can take a while to understand and cultivate, but when you visit, try to get a feel for the general environment of the home. If staff members love their jobs and residents are happy, you should be able to tell almost immediately.
Consistency of Service
Your visit to a nursing home can change drastically based on factors such as:
- Time of day.
- Day of the week.
- Nurses on duty.
- Time of year.
All of these factors and more will make a bad nursing home very different based on different visits. A good nursing home will remain consistent no matter what time it is, what day it is, or which staff members are on duty. After your initial visit to the nursing home, schedule another visit for a different time. Scheduling your second visit on a Friday or a Saturday night is a good idea. You can probably get into the dining room during dinner and see what kind of activities are planned for the evening.
Nurses and other staff members on duty at this time may also be less patient with residents due to the fact that it is the weekend, so you will be able to see the staff’s true colors at this time. Make sure that staff treatment remains the same or even improves during your second visit, but make sure that planned activities, meals, etc. are different. This will ensure that your parent gets consistent care, a good routine, and enough variety to keep life interesting.
When you visit the nursing home, you should use your senses to determine if it is an appropriate fit for your loved ones. You should pay close attention to what you see in the nursing home. Do you notice unhappy residents, or even residents with injuries that could be the result of abuse, such as bruises, cuts, etc.? Does the home appear clean or is there dust and dirt on the floors? Pay attention to what you can see when walking through the facilities. You should also pay attention to smells in the home. Does the home smell musty or do you detect the smell of urine or other bodily functions?
Also look out for smells like Lysol or bleach, which may be used to hastily cover up spills or accidents without truly cleaning them.
When visiting a nursing home, you should also pay attention to what you can hear. Do you hear distant screams or residents resisting staff members? These sounds might be coming from a testy resident, or they could indicate neglect or abuse. Investigate further if you hear frightening or unpleasant sounds.
You should also pay attention to what you can taste in the nursing home. If possible, try the food provided to the residents to determine if it is good enough to serve to your loved one.
Outdoor Activities for Residents
When you visit the facilities, take note of the outdoor space around the nursing home. Do you notice elderly people utilizing this space in some way? When choosing a nursing home, you want to make sure that your loved one will have ample access to the outdoors. Make sure you take note of elderly people partaking in outdoor activities such as:
- Going for a walk.
- Reading by a lake.
- Organized activities, such as yoga, golf, etc.
- Yard games such as bocce, croquet, shuffleboard, etc.
Staying active will help your parent stay both physically and mentally healthy. Outdoor activities can bring great happiness to those living in a nursing home, so be sure that these are available in a nursing home before you decide to send your loved one there.
Communication Among Staff Members
Another important aspect of the nursing home that you should take note of when you are visiting is how the staff members interact with one another. Try to focus on staff-staff interaction and think about how it appears to the average person walking through. Do staff members seem on edge when talking to one another? Do registered nurses or those in positions of power seem condescending to other staff members? Or are they patient and kind? Are staff members quick to jump down one another’s throats, or do they try to work together to solve problems, cover shifts, and make the workplace a pleasant place to be? These factors will all affect your loved one while they are living at the nursing home. Making sure that staff members interact well with their colleagues is in your loved one’s best interest.
Positive Staff-Resident Interaction
One very important observation that you should make while you are checking out a potential nursing home for your loved one is the staff’s relationship with and demeanor toward the residents. In most cases, you won’t be able to shadow a staff member as they with patients, and doing so may not teach you much, as the staff member will be on their best behavior if they know that you’re watching. However, if you happen to see any interactions between staff and residents, take note of them. Consider:
- How the staff members speak to the residents.
- How the staff members act towards the residents (ex. are they abrasive or rough with residents when providing treatment?)
- What is their body language like? Do staff members smile and speak kindly to residents, or do they avoid eye contact and speak in harsh tones?
- Do staff members seem frustrated, tired, or overworked?
- Do you notice any staff members raising their voices at residents?
- Are staff members complaining about their duties?
- Do staff members act recklessly when dealing with residents?
- Are staff members trying to connect with residents on a personal level? Do they ask about the resident’s family or interests?
- Are derogatory comments made toward residents?
- How to the residents respond to the staff members? Do they seem happy to see them, or are they cold toward the staff?
By observing how staff members work with residents, you will get a good idea of the environment in the nursing home and how your loved one would be treated should they become a resident in the nursing home.
Privacy for Belongings
Some personal belongings are valuable. Whether keeping expensive jewelry or sensitive financial information with them, elderly people have a right to keep their personal property locked up for safety reasons. When you view rooms, do you see lockable cabinets or closets where elderly people can store their prized possessions? Do residents have access to safes where they can put sensitive material? In order to feel safe and ensure that other residents and staff members do not steal from residents, they should have access to privacy for their possessions.
In addition to privacy for their property, residents should have access to privacy for themselves. Make sure that there are private or semi-private rooms available in the nursing home, and that private bathrooms are an option. The right to privacy of person is another right that all nursing home residents should have.
While observing is a great way to learn the truth about a nursing home, talking with residents can clear up some confusion and tell you a lot about the home itself. If possible, you should seriously consider talking with at least one resident while you’re visiting, even if it is only for a few minutes. Consider asking questions such as:
- How long have you been living here?
- How often do you visit with your family?
- Do you like living here? Why? Why not?
- What is the best part of living here?
- What is the worst thing about living here?
- How does the staff treat you?
These are just a few basic questions that you can start with when talking to residents. Pay attention to not only what their answers are, but how they answer. Do they avoid eye contact when singing the home’s praises? Do they look around nervously before answering questions? Read the resident’s body language to determine if the resident is lying to you out of fear or telling you the truth.
Again, there are many reasons why residents that you visit might seem unhappy. Some may be dealing with serious depression or other mental illnesses. Others might just be having a bad day. But taking note of residents’ demeanors when you visit a nursing home can help you determine the general environment in the facility that you are visiting. Do the residents seem happy? Are they friendly and greet you as you pass them in the hallways? Are they smiling? Or do they seem reserved, frightened, angry, or antisocial? A poor environment and culture in the nursing home can lead to this behavior. At the very least, you don’t want your loved one to live with a group of people who seem hostile or grumpy. At worst, you don’t want them to be in a situation where they are fearful for their safety.