As our population ages, many people are faced with the decision of placing a loved one in a nursing home. A nursing home is your best option when your parent’s quality of life and health are impaired due to increasing frailty or memory issues, and more care is needed than can be provided at home. In a great skilled nursing home, your mother or father will receive high-quality long term care services, enjoy socializing with peers, and reside in a safe, secure place with help close at hand.
The ten qualities of a great nursing home are:
- A Sense of Community – While strolling through the home, you will notice that highly trained staff members interact with residents, referring to them by name. The residents are treated respectfully, engaged in conversation, and encouraged to socialize with others to achieve an optimal quality of life.
- Comfortable Environment – The nursing home is very clean with no odors. The décor is pleasant and colorful but not overwhelming. The home floor plan is not complicated – it is easy for residents with physical or cognitive issues to move around safely. The nursing home is not noisy or over stimulating. There are quiet areas where residents can visit with family members and friends.
- Pets, Plants and Children –The nursing home environment should be as home-like as possible and contain real plants. There are pets living in the nursing home or therapy animals are brought in to visit residents. More importantly, there are frequent visits from young children who interact with the residents.
- Person-Centered Living– The best homes ensure that your parent’s views and wishes are encouraged and respected. Residents have dignity, respect, and enjoy purposeful living. If your mother doesn’t like rising early in the morning, the home conforms to her schedule. If your father enjoys gardening, a great home makes sure he has the opportunity to plant, weed, and prune.
- 24/7 Skilled Nursing Care – It is important that nurses are on staff around the clock, every day of the week, including holidays. Ensure that the nursing staff is not overwhelmed, caring for too many residents. Ask the tour guide about the staff to resident ratio to assess the quality of care provided.
- Outdoor Spaces – Great nursing homes ensure that their residents have access to the outdoors and fresh air. Look for pleasant manicured grounds, outdoor seating, shady and sunny areas, and safe walkways.
- Activities – The recreation department plans activities for residents not only during the day, but evenings and weekends too. The activities should be geared towards all residents, and contain educational, social and physical elements. A great home offers a variety of activities, including music, entertainment, and faith-based services.
- Excellent Nutritious Food –Dining with friends in a pleasant atmosphere is an important social experience. The food should be high-quality, nutritious, freshly prepared, and customized for specialized diets. Staff members are present during mealtimes, encouraging and assisting residents, and quietly observing that residents are eating well. They will notify the family and medical staff if a resident changes eating habits.
- Unscheduled Family Visits - Make sure that family members are welcome to visit at any time, within reason, and not just during selected hours.
- Amenities – Look for a home with a hair salon/barber shop, a health and wellness center with personal trainers, a library, and computer access. People feel better when they are well groomed and have opportunity for physical, occupational and speech therapy. Many elders enjoy exercising, reading, and quite a few are computer savvy.
There are many resources on the internet that will help you learn more about the characteristics that make a great nursing home. The Alzheimer’s Association’s website has a downloadable article titled, “Choosing a Nursing Home – What to Look for, What to Ask
.” The New York Times health blogger Jane E. Brody recently published an article titled, “Picking a Nursing Home Shouldn’t Be Trial and Error
.” LeadingAge, an organization that advocates and educates the public on aging, gives great advice on “How to Tour a Nursing Home
.” Most of all, use your eyes, ears, and instincts while assessing a nursing home. With patience and persistence, you will soon find the perfect nursing home residence for your parent.