When choosing between assisted living or nursing home care, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure you’re finding the best match between caregiver, resident, and budget. Your parents deserve the finest care available, and with these strategies in place, you’ll be in a great position to find the ideal living situation for them in Virginia. Learn what to prioritize, where to do your research, the best resource available, and what to look for during your visit:
Level of Care
Level of care should be your top priority when picking an institution. Don’t just pick the facility that is closest to you, or google local nursing homes and pick the first result—every situation is unique, and you need to make sure that the staff has the proper training and experience to cater to the resident’s particular needs. You need to be an advocate for your loved one. Many nursing homes are grossly understaffed, and the staff is underpaid. Often there is only one resident nurse per 150-200 residents, which can put quite a strain on the level of care the facility is able to provide. Much of the first-responder staff are actually nurses’ aides who have received minimal training and make minimum wage or slightly above. This can be disconcerting, which is why you have to be the #1 spokesperson for your loved one, asking the right questions and looking for the right care based on your unique knowledge of the situation.
So how do you start searching? The first step is to ask your family’s attending physician precisely what care will be needed. Will he or she need a feeding tube? Muscle or joint rehabilitation? Bathing and toileting? Pinpoint the most important issues and the absolute essentials. This list will instantly help you weed out which facilities are under-equipped or simply cannot provide the proper care.
Second, use independent sources to research facilities. Consumer reports on nursing homes as well as Medicare and Medicaid surveys can give you a wealth of information about nursing homes or assisted living facilities that you’d never come across on the tour. Be aware that if a nursing home takes Medicare or Medicaid patients, there is a minimum level of care the facility must meet according to the Department of Health, which publishes an annual report on the home.
The best place, by far, to find information on nursing homes is Medicare.gov. It’s thorough, official, and constantly updated. Another good source is your local courthouse. If a facility is getting sued all the time, that’s probably not a good sign. Keep in mind, however, that any facility caring for a large number of patients will, over time, inevitably be party to a lawsuit. It shouldn’t be the ultimate decider when weeding out your options; many fine facilities have to defend themselves in court on occasion and that’s perfectly normal. Be careful not to over-evaluate this information, but at the same time don’t ignore it—loads of litigation might mean the facility is on the wrong track.
Lastly, once you’ve narrowed down your options to a solid, manageable list, you will naturally want to visit the site yourself. Lingering by the front desk won’t tell you much about the care provided; you need to get on the floor and observe. The reception area could be spick and span, but if the rest of the facility smells like urine or feces it’s time to move on.
Pay attention to the residents. Are they happy? Do they engage well with the staff? Do the staff seem competent and loving? Are there unattended people in wheelchairs throughout the hall? Are staff responding quickly to a resident calling for help? This environment will be a daily reality for your loved one. If it’s not a place you’d be 100% comfortable placing them, be outspoken, be honest, and be an advocate for proper care.
Ask about availability and access. Will you have 24-7 access to your loved one, or are family restricted to certain visiting hours? Ultimately, this is a family decision. Only you know the exact circumstances you and your loved one are going through. Use these three steps to narrow down and pinpoint the exact right care for your situation.