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Nursing home pointers: What to look for in finding the right one

Many adult children and their parents avoid discussing when it may be time for the parents to move to a nursing home. Their house had been home for decades, and it may be hard to let go of the memories inside. But things have changed. Your parents are older and not as mobile.

You fear that they may lose their balance and fall down the stairs inside the family home, which is too big for them now. On top of that, their health may have deteriorated, and your parents may need someone to check on them now and again.

Respectful staff, variety of activities, freedom of choice

When your family has finally made the decision to move your parents into a nursing home, there are a number of things to do when choosing one. We came up with a list of important ones:

  • Do your research. Talk with your doctor, friends, neighbors and family to find out about their experiences with nursing homes.
  • Make sure nursing home staff are respectful and friendly, and that they (along with administrators) are regularly present and easy to reach.
  • Is the food good? Eat with your parents a few times to find out how the food looks and tastes. As they age, your parents may have lost some of their sense of taste, so they may not be able to discern whether something tastes good or bad.
  • What activities are available? Nursing homes may offer daily afternoon activities such as board games, card-playing or bingo as well as occasional field trips such as a fishing outing. Other activities may include gardening, exercise classes and musical programs. You want to see plenty of variety.
  • How does the facility smell and how clean is it? Certain smells occasionally cannot be avoided especially if residents are incontinent. But if you detect regular unpleasant odors during your visits, then the nursing home may not be getting cleaned properly.
  • Make sure that natural lighting is common throughout the rooms and building. Natural light may benefit residents' mood and even health.
  • Do you see bruising on residents? Some may appear suspicious. Did your parent have a physical altercation with another resident? Are there unusual bruise marks on his or her arms or neck? The latter could be a sign of staff abuse.
  • How much freedom of choice do residents have? Independence is important, so they may want to be able to decide when to eat, sleep and awaken.

Moving into a nursing home can be a difficult decision for many families. You're concerned about your loved ones' safety, and now they will be living in a new place. It's a chance for them to be part of a new community, but that may not be reassuring until you know they are living in a good place. Do your homework about your parents' new home. It may put you at ease.

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