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How can you check out a nursing home’s quality?

With the horror stories you see in the news about poor-quality nursing home care, it’s entirely understandable if you have qualms about trusting your loved one to any nursing home without thoroughly checking it out first.

But, do you even know where to start? Here’s a quick guide you can use:

Make use of free tools

ProPublica is a non-profit group that maintains a free database for consumers looking into nursing home care. Its partnership with state agencies allows it to provide detailed information about the way that nursing homes in each state have performed during state inspections — including any citations or fines they’ve received. Medicare.gov also provides free information about facilities, including each nursing home’s official rating with the government and information about staffing levels.

Ask for a tour

You should never choose a nursing home on ratings alone. Once you’ve selected a few likely candidates, talk to the administration of each and set up an official tour. Some important things to look for include:

  • The cleanliness of the facility — You may not expect perfection, but the facility should at least be neat, well-maintained and free of odors.
  • The quality of the food — No tour is complete without a trip to the cafeteria. See how individual resident’s needs are met and whether the food really looks edible.
  • The variety of activities — Residents shouldn’t be left to sit in their rooms all day. It’s important to make sure that the nursing home you select is providing mental and physical stimulation for its residents.

Naturally, you also want to make certain that residents are being treated with care and compassion as well. Make sure it appears that all their needs are being met.

Stop in unannounced

Every nursing home has visiting hours. Take note of the hours while you’re there and stop back in at some point unannounced. That’s the quickest way to make sure that you weren’t being given a “show” for the tour and that everything really is as it seems.

Nursing home negligence is a horrible thing, and you can’t always predict or prevent it. However, you can avoid letting your loved ones fall victim to obvious problems with just a few extra steps while you’re selecting a facility for their care.