Are you considering a nursing home for a frail loved one? Not sure how to look? Read below for help!
Hi, Joanna Leefer here, your senior care advisor.
My husband Paul, and I are looking at nursing homes for his 96-year-old mother, Lillian. Lillian is still living in her apartment with home health aides, but her Alzheimer’s is becoming more pronounced and we might need to place her in a skilled nursing facility.
I promised to take you along as we tour facilities so you can follow our search process. The nursing home we are about to tour has some unexpected surprises. Read on to learn more.
One caveat: I am not rating any nursing home, I am offering my professional opinion gained from years of working in eldercare and from my own experience caring for my parents.
In a previous entry I wrote about the first Manhattan facility we toured. We were not impressed. You can read my thoughts by clicking here.
Today we are touring another Manhattan facility. We called before visiting to determine if we needed to schedule a tour. The admissions office informed us that they regularly conduct tours on Wednesday mornings at 11 a.m. so we sign up.
This facility is centrally located in midtown Manhattan. Paul and I can get there within our predetermined 45-minute requirement. This is a key factor in selecting a facility. So far this facility rates a plus.
Essential rule: Frequent visits are one of the most important factors in insuring good care. If you or someone you appoint cannot visit often, it is not a good choice.
We arrive promptly at the appointed time. I note the building is well maintained but I do not see any outside area where residents can sit. I give the facility a plus for maintenance, but question their sensitivity to the residents needs.
We meet our guide Mary in a large, nicely furnished lobby area that has many comfortable easy chairs and sofas. The space appears pleasant but a little sterile and very few people are sitting around.
Mary gives us an overview of the facility before beginning the tour. She will show us the public areas first including a cafe, the auditorium, activity room, dining room and an auditorium. Then she will show us one long-term residents floor. We will not be shown the rehab wing because it is under construction or the dementia wing because it currently has no vacancies and has a waiting list.
A couple of red flags go up in my mind. I am suspicious of any facility that shows only one resident floor. Some institutions deceptively show one model floor that is better looking than the others. I express my concern, Mary informs me the facility has a policy of rotating floors on their tours. They do not want their residents to feel constantly on view. I am not pleased but I figure if I like the facility, I will come back a second time to view another floor.
I am also suspicious of a facility that will not show the rehab equipment or Alzheimer’s/ Dementia area. I particularly want to see the dementia floor because Lillian is in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. I again express my concern. Mary informs me she cannot take me on a floor that is under construction because of liability concerns. As for the dementia ward, this facility is still accepting dementia patients on other floors as long as they do not wander. The dementia wing is a locked ward and is reserved for residents who might wander off. Residents are escorted to the floor daily to participate in activities and meals with other dementia patients.
This is still not a good answer. Lillian is not a wanderer so she can easily live on any floor, but I would like to observe some of the activities that are offered on the dementia floor. I add a couple of negatives to my rating scale.
Now we are ready to begin our tour. Our first stop will be the concourse level where this facility boasts a cocktail lounge for residents and their visitors, a coffee shop, and the main auditorium.
We are led to one of three elevator banks. An elevator shows up in less than five minutes. This is a good sign. The first facility we toured had us waiting almost fifteen minutes every time we needed an elevator. Mary presses the down button so we can view the concourse.
I am stopping for now. I will give you further impressions as we visit each area. I made one unexpected discovery.
My rating so far is:
Good location plus
Building is well maintained plus
No visible outside sitting area minus
Good security plus
Only one floor on tour minus
Dementia wing not on the tour minus
Fast Elevator plus
You can read more about selecting a nursing home by purchasing my upcoming book, Almost Like Home: A Family Guide to Navigating the Nursing Home Maze. It will be available in print in early December. Click below to download the table of contents and read an excerpt.
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