Realizing your aging loved one requires a level of care beyond what you can manage at home is a challenging moment. But it creates an opportunity for you and your family members to work together to identify a place that meets the needs and enhances the quality of life of someone you love.
However, knowing your relative needs a good nursing home and knowing how to pick the right nursing home are two different matters. There are dozens of long-term skilled nursing facilities in Kanawha County alone—and sometimes the specialized care your family member needs can’t be found in your immediate proximity.
Choosing the right nursing home isn’t a process that should be taken lightly, but it can be simplified by making a plan and asking smart questions. In general, the “how” of how to pick the right nursing home looks something like this:
- Find nursing homes in your area
- Narrow down a list of potential “right fits”
- Visit nursing homes (with your loved one, if feasible)
- Choose the right nursing home for the potential resident’s needs
- Monitor the nursing home’s provided care and visit often
The goal should always be to pick a nursing home where your loved one can live in safety, health, happiness, and social fulfillment. Let’s look at how to begin the process and important questions to ask along the way.
Begin By Asking Those You Trust for Recommendations
One of the best places to start is by asking people you trust. In addition to researching nursing homes on your own, visiting facilities, and making lists of pros and cons, talk to knowledgeable resources such as:
- Your or your loved one’s doctor
- Other health care providers
- A social worker
- A representative from West Virginia’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
- A trusted elder rights and nursing home abuse attorney
- Friends and family members who have experience with local nursing facilities
The Difference Between the Right Nursing Home and the Wrong Nursing Home
So what makes a nursing home the right one? A residential facility should not only be safe, well-staffed, fully resourced, and equipped to handle your loved one’s medical condition. It should also create an environment that makes residents feel comfortable, engaged, and at home.
The right nursing home will have:
- Adequate staff-to-residence ratios
- Full compliance with all state and federal nursing home regulations
- A clean, well-lit, secure, and accessible environment
- Residents who appear happy and well cared for
- Staff members who are present, friendly, and know residents by name
- Transparent resident policies and fee structures
- Suitable numbers of medical staff with the necessary accreditations
- A fresh, nutritious, accommodating, and ever-changing menu of food options
- A satisfactory quality rating without an extensive history of complaints and violations
- A robust social calendar of events
- Appropriate check-in and sign-in procedures
- Staff who can answer all your questions fully and truthfully
A lack of any of these things should raise red flags. Any troubling signs like rushed or stressed staff members, residents in a poor state of personal hygiene, lax security measures, or tripping hazards in walkways can indicate larger issues of systemic negligence. If anything feels “not quite right,” it’s best to look elsewhere.
Questions To Ask When Choosing a Nursing Home or Long-Term Care Facility
So you’ve done your research and narrowed it down to a short list. What questions can you ask to pick the right nursing home out of a handful of potential options?
Here are five questions to help you identify the best residential facility to match your loved one’s needs and preferences.
1. What Is the Nursing Home’s Rating?
The facility’s quality rating should not be the sole factor by which you judge it, but it’s a good place to begin. While one or two minor past violations may not be a serious issue, an extremely poor quality rating or a pattern of serious complaints and violations is.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has a tool called Nursing Home Compare. This tool was created in partnership with numerous other federal agencies and organizations. It aims to provide a standardized measurement system by which to evaluate the quality of nursing homes and other care facilities across the country.
Search for the nursing homes you’re considering to see how they have been rated in areas like staffing, fire safety, health inspections, and resident hospitalization rates. You will also be able to read about past violations committed by the facility.
2. What Is the Best Environment for My Loved One?
Considering the individual needs of your family member is an important step in choosing the right nursing home. Picking the best facility means taking into account the resident’s health needs, personal partialities, medical condition, lifestyle, favorite activities and hobbies, and more.
Sit down with your loved one and other family members to discuss factors like:
- Size and number of other residents
- Location and surrounding natural environment
- Distance from your and other family members’ homes
- Religious affiliation
- Specialization in caring for certain types of residents (such as Alzheimer’s patients)
- Languages spoken by staff members
- Whether the nursing home has any arrangements with local hospitals
3. What Resources Does the Facility Offer?
Every nursing home should offer the fundamental services a facility of its type must provide:
- Skilled nursing care
- 24-hour supervision
- Regular meals that meet individual dietary needs
- Assistance with day-to-day tasks
- Compliance with all laws and regulations
- Adequate staffing numbers
- Support of all resident rights guaranteed under federal and West Virginia law
But it’s also vital to keep in mind that each nursing home resident is an individual person. Beyond the essential services listed above, a prospective resident may also need or fare best in a facility that has:
- Medicare or Medicaid certification
- Rehabilitative services (such as physical, speech, or occupational therapy)
- Mental health counseling
- Accommodations and accessibility for those with physical or cognitive differences
- Specialized care for dementia patients
- Classes, workshops, and other learning activities
- Musical instruments available for use
- Opportunities to participate in certain arts, crafts, performances, games, hobbies, or sports
- Celebration of religious and cultural holidays
- A place to worship and practice a religion
- Transportation to community events
- Places to visit privately with guests
- Preventative medical care, screening programs, and vaccine clinics
- Transportation to medical appointments
4. Are There Additional Fees for Any Services the Nursing Home Offers?
Even if the facility offers services like those listed above, it doesn’t mean they will automatically be included in the basic price of residency.
Some nursing care facilities charge for any offerings that extend beyond standard care, such as salon or barber services, financial counseling, social services, or transportation. Make sure you and your loved one are aware of what services come with an additional price tag.
Don’t be caught in a situation in which your family member is “offered” one or more of these services and then handed a steep bill at a later date. Be clear on the payment schedule for every facility you consider.
5. What Does the Nursing Home Do To Prevent Abuse and Neglect?
The right nursing home will do everything it can to ensure a safe environment for all residents and staff members. Observing the interactions between staff and residents is helpful, but can’t give you a full picture of what goes on when visitors aren’t watching.
When visiting, ask questions that can give you an idea of the facility’s stance on abuse prevention. You can ask about topics such as:
- Policies on hiring and background checks
- Procedures for reporting suspected abuse or neglect
- How residents can self-report mistreatment
- How allegations of abuse are handled
- Systems of checks and balances that keep staff accountable
- Any past instances of abuse, neglect, or exploitation and how they were handled
DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC Stands for Elder Rights in West Virginia
Investing the time to choose the right nursing home does not guarantee that nothing will go wrong once your loved one moves in. Even the best facilities may employ a person who acts negligently or even someone who acts in a way that deliberately harms residents.
Choosing the right nursing home is essential—so is monitoring your loved one’s condition and quality of life once they become a resident. Visiting often, staying involved, and looking for any signs of nursing home abuse or neglect is the best way to keep them safe and protected.
If you suspect your loved one is not receiving proper care or is being willfully mistreated, take action right away. You do not need solid evidence to speak to an attorney. It’s our job to investigate cases of possible abuse or neglect.
To discuss your concerns about any type of mistreatment in a nursing home in West Virginia, contact DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.