What to look for in a long term care facility

Marcia ThornleySeptember 13, 2006

We have decided to put Mom on a waiting list for a long term care home. (nursing home) It is getting to the point where we cannot care for her properly at home.

For those of you that have done this, what did you look for and what questions did you ask. There are quite a few choices around us and all of them are different. Some are new and beautiful inside, others are older but with good reputations.

We just want her to have a safe, comfortable place to live where she gets the care she needs and one close by so we can stay involved. We are touring several tomorrow and I'd like to write down some questions so I don't forget anything.

Thanks for any advice.


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You want one with a good reputation. Usually the staff would have a lot of people that had been working there for years. Newer establisments, while they may have a better looking place with more up-to-date equipment, etc, the chances are that the staff is new and not quite as used to the care of the long term patient.

Do they have a lounge area that is easy for the patients to get to?

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 8:39AM
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Smell the air!!! You DON'T want to smell urine!! Also, find out how long the employees have worked there, as PB mentioned. Go there withOUT an appointment and ask to be taken to the patient's floor; they should have no problem with this, as long as it is not at a time when staff is changing. Talk to other family members of patients -- they will tell you the truth!! Good Luck!!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 8:48AM
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I did not realize you are in Canada, but here in the lower 50 states, there are web sites that rate long term care homes. You might check both on a web site and with your province to see where there is a list of complaints and how they were handled.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 3:41PM
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Make several visits--some with an appt, some 'drop ins'.
We had started the process a few years back, when we thought we might get guardianship of MIL. The homes that impressed us the most, were the ones where the rooms looked more like apartments, than hospital rooms, where it was obvious that the staff loved the 'guests', where the food was nutritious, and beautifully served in friendly surroundings, where there were plenty of appropriate activities for the residents to enjoy. There should be onsite medical staff.

One of the first questions you want to ask, is 'what happens if the money runs out'--not all facilities deal with medicare (that's US--don't know if you have something similar in Canada). You don't want to get mom settled, and then have to move her in a couple of years.

The home we finally were impressed with offered a beautiful facility that looked like a gorgeous country inn. Rooms were beautiful, and included a small kitchenette (sink, microwave, small fridge), they were relatively spacious. The staff was fantastic. There was a dog and cat. The dining rooms were beautifully appointed--lovely drapes, linen tablecloths, small tables--looked like a pricy restaurant (although meals would be served in rooms for those unable to get to the dining room). We ate there, and the food was exceptional for an 'institution'. There were all kinds of activities, every day, all day long--music, crafts, parties, exercise, cooking, etc. There were no visiting hours, because guests were welcome anytime, night or day. They had field trips. They planned frequent family events--parties, pet days, octoberfest, etc. There was a 'bistro' where the guests could meet to visit and for (free) snacks any time during the day. Fulltime nurse on staff, dr. a couple of days a week. And one of the really amazing things was that while the facility was truly the best we visited, it was about mid-priced compared to others.

Most important thing you can do is take your time, visit many, many times, talk to other residents and their families. And the more you look, the more questions will occur to you to ask--just keep asking until you find a place that gives you the answers you want. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 8:38AM
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I don't believe that you mentioned what her problem is. If it's a dementia, then you DO NOT want a homey looking place like the previous poster mentioned. That's wonderful but......patients wander around and get into things. You don't want her to be able to get near a stove or microwave. You want the rooms to be simple and easy to clean. The nursing home patients have all sort of unpleasant "accidents" that must be easily cleaned up.

Look down the halls, are there hand rails along the way for the unsteady to hold on to? A good nursing home is prepared to take care of patients of all sorts of problems.

I was checking out one home that seemed very good. The nurse took me on a tour and I was impressed until we got to one wing. She said, "This is where we keep the Sickies." Yep, all the bed ridden ones were there and the stench was unbelievable, even at a time of day when things should have been clean. It was inexcusable. Check to see how the bed ridden ones are treated. It's a good indication about the type of overall care that is given.

Remember, you not only want your mother to be safe and clean, but you also want her to be protected, not only from what she may do, but from other patients.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 9:52AM
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