The incidents of elder abuse, neglect and wrongful death have risen in this country. One of the best ways to protect your loved ones is to be extremely careful when choosing a nursing home. This decision is usually an emotional one and it is also one that all members of the family should partake in, especially the elderly person needing care.
The first step is to determine exactly what level of care your family member needs. Oftentimes the amount of care needed is small and could be provided by a home health aide or in an assisted living facility. The family also needs to determine what the elderly person can afford, what Medicare covers and if there is long-term health insurance or other assets that can be used for this care. A lower priced nursing home is not always a bad one and high priced ones have their share of elder abuse and neglect problems.
Even though you may be making this decision quickly due to medical necessity, take the time to research the nursing homes in your area. Every state has an Ombudsman for elder care and you should contact that person right away. The most recent inspection results of every nursing home in the area should be available online, if not obtain it from the Dept. of Elderly Affairs.
Family members should visit several of the nursing homes that they have been considering, especially on off hours when the staff may not be expecting visitors. How does the home smell? The smell of urine can be a sign of neglect of patients or short staffing. Is it full of visitors? This shows that the nursing home is welcoming and family and friends enjoy coming there. Check the level of staffing, as in how many RNs, LPNs, aides, etc. are there and on each shift. It might be concerning if the nursing home has a frequent staff turnover; however, this is not unusual. A worse sign is if there is a frequent administrator turnover. Know who the owners are and if the nursing home is a chain. Chains are often in trouble for abuse and neglect.
When you visit a nursing home, try to arrive at mealtime and observe what is being served and how it is served. Malnutrition can be a problem and many elderly need encouragement to eat. Choose a nursing home that is not far away so that you can visit relatively frequently not just for the pleasure of your family member, but also to keep an eye on the care and if things have changed dramatically. You or your family member will need to sign a contract with the nursing home, if possible get a nursing home abuse claim attorney to preview this. At the very least make sure that you keep a copy of it and are aware of its details.