Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, choosing a suitable care home is an incredibly important process. Many people feel rushed (due to illness or a sudden change in circumstances) during this process and forget that this is a decision which will carry long term ramifications. However, with a little planning ahead you can find high-quality care homes that match not just your specific needs but are also local, reliable and with impressive performance records.
There are plenty of aspects to consider when choosing a suitable care home but perhaps the most important when helping another person is to ensure it is a two-way process. Encourage dialogue with the loved one needing assisted living and ensure that they are comfortable with the environment. Do not just base your selection on one or two visits – many will offer trial weeks and this ought to be taken up wherever possible. These top tips for choosing a nursing home will outline the main issues to consider.
1) Location Matters
The last thing anyone wants from a move into a nursing home is to leave the individual feeling forgotten, neglected or removed from their familiar social networks. Location is incredibly important when choosing possible/suitable nursing homes – and do not just base this on how close you will be for visiting. Many older people will not feel remotely comfortable or relieved to be uprooted from their homes, especially if they have lived there for many years. Even if they are nowadays confined to their home through sickness or disability, chances are they will still have local friends and social occasions they appreciate being near to.
As a general rule of thumb, it is worth looking at local options first. You need to decide what is best for the individual and how realistic it is for both yourself to visit frequently and also other family and friends. Be sure to see what can be done for helping them remain a part of any other important social aspects of their lives (clubs, associations, etc). A good nursing home should do everything possible to facilitate residents still being able to get out and about on a regular basis. Naturally, that will be much more difficult if they are dozens or even hundreds of miles away.
2) Does the Nursing Home Match Their Character?
Something you are certain to notice when visiting nursing homes is that they are surprisingly different in character and style. Some may be far busier, louder and more community-focused (regular events/clubs etc). Others can be far more sedate and offer a greater sense of privacy, while quite a high number fall somewhere in-between. Choosing what suits another person is extremely difficult because while we may remember them in their prime, the fact is that many people in their later years prefer some degree of seclusion and quiet. For this reason, it must be a two-way process when deciding on a suitable care home and do not always expect that your first choice is necessarily going to be a long-term solution. People do change their minds!
3) Facilities & Services
One excellent tip when visiting care homes is to try and do so during communal mealtimes. Some homes may offer these services while others are likely to be semi-self-catering, but if you intend on including meals then this is the time to visit. You should take the time to discuss the variety of the menu, the quality of the ingredients, and the staff’s knowledge/expertise in preparing dishes for those on restricted diets. Most care homes score well here but you will be able to see if this is a potential issue by the reaction of other people staying at the home.
As a general rule, you should expect the care home to provide more than general assistance with meals, cleaning, and medication. The best homes – and not necessarily the most expensive – will go out of their way to make the environment as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Once again you should be able to get a ‘feel’ for the home when visiting and it is never a bad idea to ask residents about the variety of activities, trips out, seasonal activities and so forth. Remember that most older people do not post reviews on social media and asking in person will garnish a much better impression of the home than their own website.
4) Check the Staff Credentials
It is a sad yet unfortunate reality that barely a year passes without some kind of news expose on poor standards of care in a handful of care homes. Much has been made regarding this issue over recent years but that doesn’t mean you should be complacent. Look for staff who not only boast solid professional credentials but also seem to be invested and enthusiastic in the work they perform. Most homes will use nursing agency staff – and the good news is that you can easily research the quality of these companies online. Remember to check they have a nurse (licensed) on-site at all times.
An ideal nursing home will have enthusiastic and proactive staff who are happy int their roles. That will naturally enhance the level of care you can expect. Watch out for homes that seem to have a high turnover or timetable in a fashion that means the resident will have a different attendant every day. It is a sign that something is not quite right.
5) Trust Your Gut
You ought to make a shortlist of prospective homes within an agreed area and visit each in turn. Once that has been narrowed down you should have a shortlist of perhaps 3/4 to choose between. Chances are that each will share very similar merits and choosing between them may come down to simple gut instinct. At this stage, you may simply need to make your final decision based on how you feel after the final visit to each home. Don’t worry about this – it is entirely natural – and a far better way of planning than simply tossing a coin.
Once you have decided on a home it is essential to make the move as straightforward and natural as possible. Make your visits regular and at different times of the day – ideally you should not need to provide much if any advance warning (rules may vary depending on the style of the care home). If at any stage you feel something is not right or sense a dissatisfaction that the standards are not as advertised/expected then raise concerns right away. Do not ever just assume things will get better if left alone.