When it comes time to start thinking about putting a loved one in a nursing home, people generally devote a great deal of time and effort to searching for the “best nursing home in town.” However, it might actually save some time to start by looking for the signs of a bad nursing home first. To that end, MSN recently published an article titled “5 Traits of the Worst Nursing Homes.” Looking for these so-called “red flags” might help you narrow down the list of potential nursing homes and possibly prevent unnecessary harm or hassle.
The first trait to look for is a history of violations at the facility. Nursing homes are regulated at both the federal and state government levels, and so records of their noncompliance with guidelines and other applicable rules are usually fairly easy to access. Doing a little background research should help you determine which facilities have a reputation for violating the rules. One resource to use is Medicare.gov. This website allows you to search by zip code and compare a number of different nursing homes in one area. U.S. News also runs a website that allows you to search for nursing homes across the entire country. Each facility is rated on a scale from one to five based upon the results of state health inspections, the amount of time nurses spend with resident, and overall quality of medical care. Other websites to check include ProPublica.com and SeniorAdvisor.com.
The second warning sign of a bad nursing home is severe violations. It is important to note not only a facility’s record of violations, but also the severity of said violations. One violation for resident abuse is obviously much worse than four or five violations for cobwebs in the rafters or some similarly innocuous violation. Put the violations into perspective as much as possible.
Next, you should be aware of the rate of staff turnover. If a nursing home is constantly hiring and firing its employees, that should tip you off that things aren’t running smoothly. Look for facilities where the key employees and/or staff member have worked there for fifteen or twenty years. Additionally, if possible, try to observe employee/resident interactions to see if residents look comfortable and employees seem contented.
Fourth, consider the level of independence afforded to residents at each facility. It is actually beneficial to a nursing home resident’s health to have some level of freedom to make decisions about their own day to day life. Consider the following questions: are residents allowed to decorate their rooms? Are residents provided with activities to choose from? Are residents treated as adults and not talked down to? The answers to each of these questions could help you perceive how your loved one will be treated when you are not around.
Finally, trust you gut. If you feel uneasy or unsure about a particular nursing home, then it probably is not the best choice for you and your loved ones. Simple things like cleanliness of common areas and appearance of staff members can be indicative of a facility’s overall standard of care. Don’t discount your first impressions of a facility—trust your instincts.