In 2010, the United States Census Bureau recorded the greatest number of people age 65 and older in census history. The number was 40.3 million people, or 13% of the population, and that number is only going to go up into the future. As people live longer, many Ohioans are going to need medical care and assistance that can only be found at a nursing home. There are almost 1,000 nursing homes in Ohio. So how can you find out what is a good nursing home vs. a bad one? Here are 5 quick tips to help you select a nursing home for your family member.
1. Check out the nursing home on the Ohio Department of Health and Medicare websites.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is responsible for monitoring and regulating nursing homes in Ohio. These facilities are subject to regular inspections by investigators from the ODH. The ODH puts out the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide which contains inspection reports, facility details, family satisfaction survey scores, and resident satisfaction survey scores. This information can be found here.
Many Ohio nursing home residents pay for their care by using Medicare and Medicaid. In order for a nursing home to receive payment from the government, it must comply with minimum standards that are established. The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services monitors and compares these facilities to see which ones are doing a good job. You can find this information here.
2. Visit the nursing home to see how the staff interacts with each.
I recommend that you actually go and visit the nursing home and spend an hour or two in the waiting area or other common areas of the facility and just observe what happens in a typical day. Pay attention to how the nurses, therapists, and aides interact with each other. Chances are if they are being rude to each other, then they are going to be rude to your family member, especially when you’re not there. Also, watch to see if they are taking the time to talk to the residents or are too busy gossiping with each other and are ignoring the residents.
3. Ask questions of the nurses and nurse’s aides.
In the past, many of the owners of Ohio nursing homes lived in the same community and knew many of the residents before they even started living at the nursing home. They treated the residents like family. This has changed as more and more nursing homes are bought up by large national corporations who are more concerned with cutting costs in order to improve their stock price. With Medicare reimbursement and Medicaid reimbursement rates remaining flat and expenses going up, this often results in staffing of the nursing homes being kept to the bare legal minimum. This means nurses and aides are often overworked and underpaid.
I encourage you to ask actual nurses and nurse’s aides at the nursing home how long they have been at that particular facility. If the nurses and aides have been there a long time, then that is a good sign the employees are being compensated fairly, are not being stretched too thin, and will likely provide better care to your family member. Also, ask them if they work a lot of overtime or double shifts. If the answer is yes, then that can be a bad sign that patient care is going to be negatively affected by short staffing. Please remember you need to get past the marketing person who is giving you a fancy brochure and a tour of the facility and ask questions of the actual care providers.
4. Give the nursing home the smell test.
It’s a sad fact aging can lead to the loss of bowel and bladder control. A person’s medication can also cause gas. These things can lead to some unpleasant, but not unexpected smells, at a nursing home. However, if the facility smells like stale urine, then that can be a sign the nursing home is not being cleaned routinely or correctly.
5. Give the nursing home the taste test.
Ask the nursing home if you can eat a meal in the dining area. Where the residents eat, how the food looks, and how it tastes is also a good indicator of the quality of care your family member will receive at the nursing home. If a lot of the residents eat their meals in their rooms instead of the dining area, then that can be a sign that they are not receiving a lot of attention from the staff. Is the food visually appealing? Is it edible? Food is often very important not only for good physical health, but also can improve the spirits of your family member.
With the baby boomer generation getting older and people living longer, it should be no surprise that new nursing homes are being built in Ohio. But how do you know if these new facilities or existing nursing homes are any good? If you are faced with the difficult decision of putting your loved one into a nursing home or some type of assisted living facility, then I encourage you to follow these five tips in order to select a safe place for your family member.