Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Choosing a Care Facility

Sometimes we've done all we can do and it's necessary to place a family member in some sort of care facility. That might be a nursing home, residential school, mental hospital, or another similar place.
Since my husband worked for many years in a nursing home, I worked in a residential school for deaf children, and we had to find an appropriate placement for one of our foster kids and a nursing home for my mother I can suggest ways to choose the best place.
Most facilities have websites with helpful information, but those are designed to make them look as good as possible so don't base your decisions solely on them. Google the type of facility, "ratings," and the state where it's located. Read everything that comes up about the specific places in the area you're considering and take complaints seriously. While sometimes a complaint from a disgruntled person, like an employee who has been fired, might cause a bad rating that isn't justified, some facilities have repeated violations of the law or are run by greed rather than compassion and it's important to rule those out. If you see multiple help wanted ads for the same facility over an extended period of time they should be a warning that something might be wrong.
Obviously financial aspects and location should also be considered. Will health insurance cover care in the facility? How much does it cost? Is it important that the place be in a familiar locale or close to family who will want to visit? Can it provide the sort of care that's needed?
Once the inappropriate possibilities have been eliminated, it's important to visit each place in person before making a final decision. If appropriate, you may want to bring the family member needing care along, but it's probably better only to do that with a few places you've already decided are likely choices.
Nice furniture, beautiful decor and a beautiful view from the facility are pleasant, but don't make a lot of difference in the long run.
You can learn quite a bit by dropping in unexpectedly. Is there somebody near the entrance to check visitors in? Are you free to walk around in the building unsupervised, or is an escort required? If one is, do you feel comfortable with that person? For security reasons, you might be asked to return at a different time for a tour, and that's good.
As you walk around the building, or even if you're only allowed in the lobby without an appointment, be sure to use your senses. Do you hear teachers or caregivers yelling at children or residents? Are staff members chatting with each other instead of attending to their jobs? Do you see people sitting around with nothing to do? Allowing for the sort of conditions that bring them to the facility, consider their facial expressions. Do they look unhappy? If it's time for a meal does the food smell good? Does the building smell strongly of fragrances, often used to cover up other odors?
Ask to use a restroom and notice if it's clean or not, although people who live there probably won't use the same one. When you are allowed to tour the facility try to see into rooms other than those your escort wants to show you. Do the residents have access to attractive outdoor areas? Are there plenty of interesting activities for them to do?
You'll probably need to make an appointment with someone to discuss the possible placement. Of course that person's job is to make the facility seem appealing, but you can get a lot of helpful information from the meeting.
This kind of choice is never easy, but I hope this information is helpful to those who must make one.

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