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What to Look (out) for in a Nursing Home or Hospice Center


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are currently about 16,000 nursing homes housing about 1.5 million senior citizens across the country. While the idea of putting a family member in a hospice center or nursing home is an unpleasant one, if a loved one of any age needs attentive, on-going medical care in excess of what you can personally provide, it may become a necessity.

This is why if you will be putting your loved ones in an extended-care facility, it had better be one where you know they will get the best care possible. To do that, you need to work with a checklist. A nursing home that doesn’t meet these requirements should be struck off your list.

Freedom of Choice -- Within Reason

One of the biggest challenges that your loved ones would have to deal with is their relatively limited freedom. When people go from being able to sleep whenever they want, watch TV when they want, eat whatever they want when they want it, to not having access to these basic things when they want them, it can be quite rattling. All nursing homes have a schedule, but you want one with more flexibility and freedom, something that preserves the quality of life your family member deserves.

Accreditation and Certification

One of the most important accreditations a nursing home should have is the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). The body has stringent safety measures and quality control standards regarding medication control and the prevention of infections. Nursing homes accredited by this body have met their strict standards and requirements. It's also worth noting that Medicare favors nursing homes over hospice or palliative care -- if you need Medicare, you will need to look for solutions with Medicare approval.

Rating After Comparison

There are many nursing homes. Look for a few in their or your area or state and compare their facilities, staffing, quality of care and policies. Luckily, if you’re going with a Medicare-approved nursing home, you can compare locations based on various criteria with the NursingHomeCompare tool on their website. Make sure to do your homework, find out if the locations you are considering have had any bad press, reviews or punitive actions. If you know of a personal injury lawyer like David Heil in Melbourne, you can see if the facility you have chosen already has a reputation. A decision of this magnitude almost can't be over-thought.

Nursing Home Policies

Find out what the nursing home’s policies are. Some nursing homes have an open door policy -- you can visit your loved ones at any time -- others don’t. Some allow smoking, others don’t. Find out what they accept and what they don’t. If it helps, try to imagine yourself living there. This will help you come up with even more questions though it's worth noting that you may want to stay away from any location that doesn't have an open door policy. They may not have anything to hide, but patients who receive a lot of visitors tend to receive more care and fare better.

Safety and Security

This is a given. All nursing homes should be safe and secure. Make sure to find out what security measures are in place to keep your loved ones safe in the nursing home. Also, consider their proximity to a hospital and the availability of on-site hospital transport. Look for the presence of “wander guards” who are trained to protect patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Staff Training and Morale in the Facility

This is one of the most important things to consider. Nursing homes with poor staff morale and questionable training are more likely to experience increased death rates or worsened health conditions from poor medication management and dispensing, stealing of personal items and negligence.

Other important factors to look out for include the availability of engaging activities, the cost of housing, availability of pre-emptive care, and openness to ombudsman services. These are all important and will help ensure that your loved one never suffers from negligence or carelessness and gets all the care and attention that they need.

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About the author

Oscar King is a freelance writer and family man who contributes articles and advice on the many challenges faced by homeowners and families in a complex world.

Photo by I Craig, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

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