The power of love to change bodies is legendary, built into folklore, common sense, and everyday experience. Love moves the flesh, it pushes matter around. Throughout history, “tender loving care” has uniformly been recognized as a valuable element in healing.— Larry Dossey, M. D., author and speaker on mind/body connection topics
If any reader has ever met someone who claims they want to live out their days in a nursing home, please let your Senior Moments scribe know. Typically, no one wants to live in one, although many are nice these days and nearly all of them are significantly improved from years ago.
Sometimes, however, there is just nothing else to do. Family members may have used up all their family and medical leave time trying to keep their loved one out of the nursing home, and now the family member would have to give up the job they have to support their own family in order to continue the care giving. Sometimes a woman 5 ft tall is married to a man over 6 feet tall who outweighs her by sixty pounds. She simply cannot provide all the care he needs.
More examples are abundant. The point is it’s not a good idea to promise a parent, a spouse or any other loved one that you will never let them go to a nursing home. Being forced to break such a promise only adds to the famous and deadly “caregiver’s guilt.” As a caregiver, our thoughts are not always rational. We want to change the unchangeable and control the uncontrollable. Sometimes a nursing home is the only choice and, in that case, we are lucky there are caring and comfortable ones around.
If you are at that point, how can you choose the best facility? Again, the internet contains more information that a person of average intelligence has time to take in. Google “nursing home ratings in Maryland” or “How to Choose a good nursing home” and you’ll get plenty of hints.
Still don’t know how to actually choose? Here are some suggestions from www.medicare.gov/nhcompare: Make sure the nursing home is Medicare and Medicaid certified. In other words, the nursing home accepts both as payment if the potential resident meets specified and specific criteria for each.
Is the nursing home located close enough for friends and family to visit? The importance of this check list item cannot be over-emphasized. Each day in a hospital-like facility drags on and on and seems to never end. When a new resident does not make new friends or refuses to participate in planned activities of the facility, it is very important for the family to make up the difference. Days can be assigned to different family members for visiting. Mini-celebrations can be planned with the attendance of multiple friends and family also, such as birthdays or Valentine’s Day. It is very important that the facility is near family and friends of your loved one.
Is the nursing home free from over-whelming unpleasant odors? Or the opposite: if all you can smell is Clorox or pine cleaner, do you wonder what it’s covering up? The facility should smell like an average home with no over-whelming orders, either pleasant or unpleasant.
What is the ratio of staff to residents? Clearly, care givers in nursing homes are over-worked and underpaid. There is an incredible amount of staff turnover. The ratio of staff to resident is very important for receiving good and sufficient care.
Try to make an unannounced visit in the early evening on Saturday or Sunday. Typically, administrators and some managers are not present, and staffing can be different at different times of the day, and especially on weekends.
When you visit during regular hours, ask if there is a family or resident council and whether you could attend one of their meetings. These councils are usually organized and managed by the residents or the residents’ families to address concerns and improve the quality of care and the life of the resident.
If you are able to visit, ask questions like these: What improvements were made to the quality of life for residents in the last year? What are the plans for future improvements? How has the nursing home responded to suggestions from the council? Who sets the agenda for council meetings? How are decisions made?
These ideas should help you in your quest to find the most appropriate nursing facility for your spouse or other loved one. Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week