Earlier this year my mother’s health had taken a serious downturn.  Her MS was progressing and she needed 24 hour care.  My dad has always provided that for her, but given that he’s 76, how much longer could he continue?

Because of this, we made the decision to begin touring nursing homes.  We knew she was unable to go into Assisted Living because she needed 24 hour care.  We made a list of local facilities and we stopped by for tours.

If you’re doing the same thing now, I want to stop and tell you that I know what this feels like. I know it’s very sad.  I know it’s very difficult.  You can’t believe you’re actually doing it… as though it’s some kind of out-of-body experience.

During one tour I was being shown the shower and bathing area of a nice new facility.  For whatever reason the gravity and emotion of the situation overcame me and I started sobbing.  It was just too much!  I couldn’t believe my sweet, wonderful, mother would someday come to live here.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Sadness, guilt, or overall heartbreak cause many caregivers put off this decision for as long as possible.   However, when you’ve reached the point when home care is no longer an option, “you gotta do what you gotta do”.

As an advocate for both YOU and your parent, I want to encourage you by saying you’re doing the right thing for your loved one and you CAN muster the strength to carry on.

Emotions can overtake us at times and we can lose sight of our intent.  Because of this I’ve provided a list of things to look for when touring a nursing home.

Looks can be deceiving!

Lisa Marie Chirico is an Alzheimer’s Advocate, Long-Term Care Advocate, and an Elder Care Specialist.  She created the NursingHomeology.com website to provide guidance and support to everyone who is managing a loved one’s care in a nursing home. Here’s what she had to say.

Q: When is a good time to start touring nursing homes?

Ms. Chirico: When you are aware that you can no longer continue to care for your family member at home, and the assistance of skilled nursing is required, you should begin touring nursing homes.

Q: Are there specific physical qualities that a caregiver can look for that he/she should take into consideration?

Ms. Chirico: A good rule to go by is that looks can sometimes be deceiving. A long-term care facility may be modern and appear clean and well-staffed.

Yet, there are other critical considerations.

  1. Do the residents seem to be content and properly cared for?
  2. Does the facility have appropriately trained staff?
  3. Does the facility have appropriately trained staff to work with individuals who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
  4. Do they offer all the services that you require like physical or occupational therapy?
  5. Has the facility met state and federal licensing standards?

Q: And what about staff? Are there specific staff-related qualities that a caregiver can look for during a tour?

Ms. Chirico: When observing staff, it is important to go beyond their good manners and ability to converse with you.

  • Compassion is a necessary component in nursing home care.
  • Observe the staff’s interactions with the residents, as well as their demeanor.
  • Find out the nursing home’s specific resident to certified nursing assistant (CNA) ratio during each shift.
  • Ask the nursing home administrator and the director of nursing how often the facility is short-staffed and how that situation is dealt with when it arises.

Q: What is the best way to include the patient in touring/deciding on a nursing home facility?

Ms. Chirico: The best way to include your family member is to discuss your top choices with him or her. Then, before making a final decision, tour these facilities together. Their feedback is critical and should always be taken into consideration.

Q: Is there anything in addition to a tour that you’d recommend?

Ms. Chirico: Using your intuition when making a decision about a nursing home is key! Do not base your decision merely on a tour or recommendations that you receive from friends and family.

Another helpful tool for caregivers to utilize when making a decision about long-term care is Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website.

Preparing Is Caring!

Emotions are to be expected during this difficult experience.  It can be hard to face such a reality.  I encourage you, however, to stay strong, be prepared and get the answers you need.  You make the best decisions when you have the most information!

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