Promotional material is an important research tool when learning about a nursing home. But sometimes the hype does not match the reality.
Hi, Joanna Leefer here, your senior care advisor. I teach families how to make informed care decision when an elderly friend or relative can no longer live independently. Over the last couple of months I’ve been touring nursing homes and writing my impressions so you can follow along and learn how to evaluate them.
As many of you already know, my husband, Paul and I are looking at nursing homes, for his 96–year-old mother Lillian. Lillian is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and we are not sure how long she can live at home. We have already toured one nursing home in mid-town Manhattan but were not impressed. You can read my impression by clicking on this link. Click here
We are now touring another mid-town facility. Paul and I read the promotional brochures on this nursing home and are about to see some of the major selling points.
Before I continue I want to emphasis that I am not rating any of the nursing homes we tour. My primary intent is to show you how to look at a nursing home so you can make an informed decision.
Our first stop is the lower concourse level of this resident that houses the auditorium where major recreational events take place. It also includes a coffee shop and the featured Emerald Lounge. I want to see who uses these facilities and note the staff–resident interaction. If you want to follow along you can download my Nursing Home Check List by clicking here. Nursing Home Check List
The elevator opens on a long well lit hallway. The floors are linoleum tiled in a neutral color. The walls are a neutral color as well. Every thing looks clean and well kept. A large congregation of people is standing at one end of the hall and music is playing in the background. We walk down the hall and peek into a large auditorium packed with about 100 residents and their families. A volunteer is standing in front of a stage and is spinning a recording of the Twist. A line of young people is dancing next to him. It’s good to see such enthusiastic volunteer participation. Several family members and aides are clapping their hands and encouraging residents to participate. The residents appear to be is enjoying themselves. This deserves a plus.
Next we are escorted down the hall past a barbershop, beauty salon and administrative office to the coffee shop and pub. Our brochure hyped the coffee shop as “a favorite meeting place for family and friends. ” The Emerald Lounge is described as a place “where many gather for cocktails and companionship.” I’m looking forward to seeing both.
The cafe is an L shaped room at the end of the hall. It is well lit with windows looking out on the hallway. There are several rectangle tables that seat up to eight customers. On one side of the room is a counter. Cups and saucers are neatly stacked on shelving along the wall. A staff member is attending the only two customers in the room.
The other side of the L is arranged differently. Instead of separate tables, there are two rows of tables pushed together for a more communal feel. There is an identical counter space, but no attendant, and the shelves are stacked with drinking glasses instead of cups. This section of the café is totally empty.
Mary informs us this is the famous Emerald Lounge. What a disappointment. The only separation between the bar and the coffee shop is a turn in the wall. With a little prompting Mary tells us residents can come here during the day but they need a doctor’s note to order a drink and there is a two-drink limit. I am saddened by these restrictions. I can understand that the facility must consider the safety and its residents but the brochure made the bar a major selling point and no one is here.
Note: I discuss nursing home promotional materials in my book, Almost Like Home: A Family Guide to Navigating the Nursing Home Maze. I explain how you can use these materials to extract useful information. You should also read the information with some skepticism. Click here to learn more about this book and download a segment. Almost Like Home
I am getting a sinking feeling. First of all there is hardly anyone here. I understand an event is going on, but in a facility that houses approximately 360 residents, this comprises less than a third of the population. If only two other residents are in the pub/coffee shop, where are the others? I guess the remaining residents are on their floor. What are they doing? I’m placing a question mark next to this thought.
Another factor is bothering me. There is no natural light in this part of the building. This is not necessarily a flaw, but personally I have a problem with spaces with no sunlight. I look at Paul to get his impression but he is blank. I will reserve judgment until I see the other floors.
Our next stop is the dining area. This is on the 7th floor and my brochure states it includes an outdoor terrace and it is a place where residents can socialize. I am curious to see how this section holds up to the description. I will discuss my findings in my next excerpt. My impressions of this home are about to change drastically.
The spaces we saw are clean and well lit.
There is an active volunteer program.
The program in the auditorium is lively.
On the negative side
The coffee shop and bar are misrepresented and underused.
Only a third of the residents are accounted for. Where are the others?
The total comes out even so far. We are about to see the dining area, terrace lounge, and residents floor.