Finding the best nursing home for your loved one

By taking precautions, you can choose a nursing home that will provide the best care for your loved one.

It is a cruel and unfair fact of life that as some people get older, they lose their motor abilities, suffer from dementia or become prone to injury. If your loved one is in this situation, he or she may need the 24-hour care that a nursing home provides. However, with the stories of nursing home abuse and neglect ever persistent in the media, it is understandable that you may be reluctant to do this. Fortunately, if you take precautions, you can ensure that your loved one receives the best care available and the risk of neglect or abuse is minimized.

Researching your options

The first step in finding a suitable nursing home is to research available options. To do so, experts initially advise asking family members and trusted friends for recommendations. Alternatively, Medicare's "Nursing Home Care" website is a good place to research facilities and check out recommendations. On this website, nursing homes in your area are rated using a one to five-star system.

Experts recommend working down from the five-star rating to the lower ratings, eliminating facilities that are not within your budget in the process. It is important to know that some facilities may have a waiting list or may not accept Medicaid. Watch out for facilities that have been rated as "Special Focus Facilities," as they have consistently been rated as poor performers.

Although the facility's rating is important, what is more important is the proximity of the facility to family members. Since close facilities allow the loved one's care to be more closely monitored, a nearby facility is generally a better choice, even if it has a lower rating than one farther away. Additionally, studies show that nursing home residents that have frequent visitors are happier, healthier and receive a higher level of care.

Visiting the facility

Once you have narrowed down the facilities by affordability and proximity, it is important to visit the facility. Be sure to visit each facility more than once, visiting on different days and times, in order to get a better picture of the facility's operations. During your visits, ask to see the entire facility, not just the lobby or a sample unit. During the visit, observe how the residents are being treated by the staff. Also, the appearance of residents, the rooms, quality of food, use of restraints and the availability of activities are important indicators of the level of care your loved one is likely to receive.

Although these factors are important, the quality and quantity of the nursing home staff is even more telling. During your visit, look around and count the number of nurses and nurses aides. Ask the staff questions about how long they have worked there and how long their shifts are. In general, facilities with a low number of staff, long shifts or high turnover rates should raise red flags. The stress caused by such events often means that the staff is overworked, which invariably leads to poor care.

Finally, it is important to examine the facility itself. Although an attractive building is a plus, it is not the most important quality. More important is a building that is safe, clean and comfortable.

Be vigilant

Once your loved one has been moved into the chosen facility, regular visits are important. During the visits, be on the lookout for any telltale signs of neglect or abuse such as unexplained bruises, bedsores, fear or anger towards a certain staff member or sudden weight loss.

If you have reason to suspect that your loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect, speak with a personal injury attorney. The attorneys at Ford, Dean & Rotundo, P.A. have more than 40 years of experience defending the rights of nursing home residents. They can ensure that your loved one's rights are protected and the responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.