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Finding the right nursing home for your loved one

Moving a parent or other loved one into a nursing home is often emotionally difficult — and the problems that many nursing homes have with substandard care and inadequate staffing don’t make it any easier.

In order to make sure that your loved one is in a nursing home where he or she will be happy and healthy, the most important thing that you can do is to visit the facilities you are considering in person (maybe more than once).

What do you look for when you get there? Here’s how to evaluate a nursing home:

1. What are the residents doing?

Are there residents in the common area? What about outside? Are there staff members interacting with residents and helping them find ways to stay active and entertained?

If the majority of residents are sitting and staring at nothing or hiding in their rooms, that’s not a good sign. It usually points to a lack of mental stimulation at the facility.

2. What are the meals like?

Do residents have a choice between eating in their rooms or eating in the main dining hall? Is the food palatable? While you probably can’t expect fine dining, you should at least see fresh food and healthy ingredients. Do the residents generally seem happy with their meals?

A good rule to follow is this: If you wouldn’t eat it, your senior probably won’t either. Poor nutrition can cause numerous medical problems, so the quality of the food at a nursing home is very important.

3. What is the staff doing?

Do you see enough staff members on duty to handle the load? Are staff members actively engaged with residents, or do they simply rush from task to task? Are staff members more preoccupied with their own conversations than they are the residents?

If the staff seems harried and stressed-out, or simply disinterested in their jobs, that’s a bad sign. Residents can suffer neglect when there isn’t enough staff on duty. Abuse in nursing homes sometimes arises out of a staff member’s frustrations on the job. Look for a place that takes care of its staff as well as the residents.

Picking a good nursing home can be difficult. If your loved one falls victim to abuse or neglect in a nursing home, an attorney can guide you through the situation and explain your options.