The first thing to know about nursing homes is that there are good ones, mediocre ones and downright bad ones! It is up to you to find one that is suitable for yourself or a loved one. Your first step is to make a list of nursing homes that are conveniently located so you and others can visit easily. If you are located in the United States, you may need to choose only those that are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
Your next step will be to visit the homes on your list and stay at each one for a couple of hours minimum. While there speak with not only staff members, but also existing residents. You should also speak with your family doctor as he may have information that is valuable. Look around the nursing home. Is the home clean and fresh smelling? Do residents seem happy, clean and well cared for? Do staff members look clean and happy? What kind of meals are served and can the home provide a suitable diet plan? Are meal choices offered? Are snacks provided between meals?
You should ask questions about patient safety such as how many people each staff member is assigned to and whether wheelchairs and other aids are readily available. Are rooms private and secure enough? Are they kept clean and orderly? How do staff members handle residents? Take note if staff seem impatient or take time with the residents. Do they help them with personal care? Are there adequate handrails and grab bars? When a call bell goes off, does a staff member respond right away? How are meds distributed?
Is the nursing home associated with a particular hospital and does the home have a plan to assist patients in case of an emergency? How do they treat bedsores and how do they deal with residents who have behavioral problems? Do they ever use restraints? How often are residents changed if they have an incontinence problem? Have there ever been any influenza, food poisoning or other serious outbreaks within the facility? Ask to see a recent state or provincial inspection report. Also ask about staff turnover, as most people will not continue working at a home where residents are being mistreated.
You should also ask if any activities are offered in which residents can take part and are any outings arranged to get the residents outside for some fresh air or a short shopping trip? Is there a secure outside area where residents can sit? What kinds of activities are held for special occasions like birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Easter? Also find out the visiting hours and if family members are allowed access to most areas. Overall, is the nursing home a peaceful place where you or a loved one could actually feel comfortable and at home?
If you get the feeling that you might not be told the truth about all or any of these things, schedule an impromptu second visit.