There have been a number of incidents publicized lately regarding specific issues of deficiency and neglect in local nursing homes. How do you find a "good" nursing home? Here are some tips to get you started:
1) The New York State Department of Health offers a good list of questions. However, since New York is a highly-regulated state, many of these questions will have the same answers from nursing home to nursing home. Fortunately the baseline for acceptable care is much higher than in other parts of the country.
2) Don't simply take someone's word for it. You wouldn't purchase a home without seeing it first. Don't go to a nursing home without touring it first and asking questions. Supplement your questions with good observations. Pay attention to how clean the facility is; how well-groomed the residents are. Listen and observe how the staff treats the residents. What is your gut feeling? Would you entrust these people to care for your friend or relative? Is the atmosphere the right chemistry to offer a sense of personal security and comfort?
3) Talk to a number of actual residents and their families. This is their home and they should be able to give you an honest assessment and most would appreciate the opportunity to do so.
4) Review the recent Department of Health survey results which will indicate any deficiencies and plans of correction. The results must be made available to any visitor of any facility and will provide you a good indicator of the facility's weak areas.
5) Learn which nursing homes have specialized programs. The "best" facility may not be the best for you if you have Alzheimer's Disease and they don't provide such specialized care. Some nursing homes are strong in Rehabilitation, for example, or Dementia or Respiratory Care and some are strong in providing good old-fashioned long term care to those who don't require specialized services.
6) Finding the right nursing home can be a very emotional process. Try to have faith that going to a nursing home doesn't necessarily need to be the "end of the road". There have been countless people who, as nursing home residents, have learned skills, made friends and developed talents they never knew they had. It can be a growth experience for all if treated as an opportunity rather than as an obstacle.
7) Keep in mind that no matter what the track record is for a particular nursing home, there is someone who would never go back and there is someone who would never go anywhere else.
8) Try to plan ahead. Most people don't begin to explore nursing homes until they are in crisis, when it is impossible to make a clear decision. If you are in crisis, meet with a geriatric care manager or other professional who has firsthand experience and knowledge of each and every nursing home.
9) You may not be ready to put nursing homes on your list of things to familiarize yourself with, but make the most of an opportunity to do so. If you have a relative or friend in a nursing home, go visit them. It will be good for them and in the long run will be good for you, for any number of reasons!
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