Here are major qualities to consider in a nursing home: The facility should be clean, secure, and provide good health care and social stimulus, but…
Sometimes a nursing home breaks all the rules and still gets top praises
In my previous entries on nursing homes I’ve stressed the importance of touring a nursing home facility to insure that it conforms to certain basic standards: the facility should be clean, security should be good, the staff should be caring, and there should be a balance of good health care and social stimulus. However sometimes appearances can be deceptive—sometimes a facility that looks unwelcoming at first can be an unpolished gem. Here is an example:
My friend Carol told me her Aunt Rose loved the nursing home where she is staying. The residence s is a nondescript facility in downtown Brooklyn. I have passed it several times and would never consider it as worth recommending. It is located off a cul-de-sac with a playground directly across the street. The entrance is only four steps off the sidewalk and consists of two opaque glass doors that look in on a dingy vestibule. There is a small-unadorned fenced-in outdoor sitting area next to the building with a few tables and chairs.
I was intrigued with Aunt Rose’s pronouncement and decided to do a little research. I looked up the facility on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html, a site that rates nursing homes every 12 to 15 months. To my surprise, I discovered that it has a five star rating (5 stars are the highest possible rating). I decided I better see it and asked Carol if she could introduce me to her aunt and tour the residence.
Carol and I met at the nursing home’s security desk that was wedged into a 10 x 10 foot vestibule between the front door and the entrance to the facility. Security was definitely good; nobody got passed the guards without them knowing it —this is a plus— but it was not an area where you wanted to linger.
Once we were in the main building, we were directed to the elevator bank. While waiting for the elevator I heard a lot of loud talking and laughter. I wanted to investigate, but the elevator came too quickly (another plus) so we went to visit Aunt Rose on the top floor.
Aunt Rose was assigned a small private room on the 11th floor. The room appeared a little worn, but I it was clean, bright and had a remarkable view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Aunt Rose was sitting on her bed in a sweatshirt and pants flipping through a paperback Sudoku magazine. She told us a rabbi had come by earlier in the day and gave it to her.
Aunt Rose does not fit the stereotype of the sweet old lady. In the half hour we visited with her, she expressed her opinions on several topics with a certain irreverence. She described some early episodes in her life in surprisingly colorful detail. In the time we were with her, at least three aides walked by to make sure she did not need anything. This is much more attention than I have seen even in the best of facilities. ( plus #3)
After saying good-bye to her, we walked back to the elevator. The halls were bland but clean. There was a couple of sitting areas and a nurses’ station. There was only one person at the nursing desk; the rest of the staff was walking around the floor or interacting with the residents. The facility might be spare, but the staff was definitely attentive (plus #4).
Upon re-entering the elevator I noticed a calendar of activities posted on the back wall. All activities were posted in three languages: English, Chinese and Spanish. The activities included the usual entertainment, bingo, music, some exercises but also some Chinese favorites– Mahjong and Tai Chi. There was also a list of religious services that included all denominations, Christian and Catholic services on Sunday, a rabbi on Saturday, and weekly Buddhist gatherings.
We took the elevator down to the 3rd floor and entered a large dining room. The placed smelled divinely of Chinese cooking. The weekly menu posted on the wall confirmed that many of the featured dishes were Chinese, although there were also a selection of basic foods, meat and potatoes, eggs for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch. One of the aides also told me that kosher food could be order and delivered from outside if required.
Back on the ground floor, Carol and I walked into the activity room where I had previously heard all the laughter. I noticed that most of the residents were congregated here. There were people in wheelchairs, with walkers, some were standing or leaning against the wall. Everyone was involved including the staff. It was immediately apparent that most of the residents were Chinese although there was a smattering of Hispanics and some Caucasians. However no matter what the ethnic or cultural background, all were engaged. I have not seen such a flurry of activity in any facility I previously visited.
This facility had all the features of an ideal residence. It was clean; it was secure; it had a selection of activities, and a mouth-watering choice of food. It also offered activities that represented the background of all the residents. The staff was involved with the residents and they appeared to genuinely enjoy their company, and the residents looked involved. This facility embodies all the features that make a nursing home good.
It is true that this facility did not conform to the usual standards of a nursing home and it most definitely would not be right for people who want a more traditional standard. However if care and vitality are your major concern, and you have a preference for nontraditional, this facility could offer more than others… and you could have the pleasure of meeting Carol’s Aunt Rose.