Choosing Nursing Home Care Asking the Right Questions

nursing home care, eldercare, caregiver, caregivingOnce you've chosen to seek nursing home care for your parent, you may feel baffled about how to proceed. This is normal because so many factors must be taken into account to choose the very best facility for your loved one. The key to choosing a nursing home is to approach the process with organization and clear thinking, even if the decision to seek nursing home care was sudden due to hospitalization or worsening health status.

The non-profit organization Jewish Home Lifecare offers five things to consider once you've made the choice to seek nursing home care:

  • Time. How much time do you have to look for a nursing home? Your parent's physician or other eldercare provider can share an educated estimate so you'll know how much time you can spend looking at different facilities.
  • Finances. How much can your parent and/or your family afford in regard to nursing home care? Be sure that finances are organized, including records of assets and long-term care insurance, if applicable.
  • Location. Ideally, the nursing home will be close to a variety of family and friends so that visits are more feasible and frequent.
  • Special needs. Does your parent need specialized care due to Alzheimer's disease or another complicated condition? This will narrow your choices as you look for facilities that have expertise in your parent's unique health status.
  • Your parent's wishes. What kind of nursing home would your parent prefer? Even if your parent can't communicate his or her preferences right now, you might be able to recall earlier conversations when certain preferences about location, services, or other qualities were revealed.

Considering these five issues will help you develop a short list of nursing homes to explore. In the helpful book, Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's Guide and Sourcebook (3rd ed.), Howard Gruetzner suggests that caregivers ask several questions to determine which nursing home is the best choice for a parent. Based on these questions, those caring for a parent might ask:

  • Is the staff physician familiar with my parent's health condition?
  • Are staff members at all levels experienced in dealing with my parent's unique health needs?
  • How do staff members interact with the residents? Does the nursing home have a friendly atmosphere?
  • What kinds of activities and social opportunities are available?
  • Does the physical layout of the nursing home provide opportunities for socializing as well as privacy?
  • Does the facility welcome family involvement and input?
  • Is the nursing home clean and bright? Is it too noisy or chaotic?
  • If your parent has Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, is the facility equipped to handle behavioral issues such as combativeness and wandering?

Although choosing nursing home care might be stressful, considering these issues and questions will help you choose the best facility for your parent, which can help you feel confident in your decision. In the end, it's all about asking the right questions.

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--Carrie L. ill, Ph.D

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