The final years of anyone’s life can be challenging. There can be physical health issues that result in a loss of mobility and this can severely limit how you can get about. If you have an elderly relative (perhaps a parent or grandparent) who is experiencing this at the moment it can be very distressing to witness. Eventually, these health issues may make it impossible for them to live safely in their own homes.
Other senior citizens suffer from mental health issues. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are both increasing in incidence and are most common in people aged over 70 years of age. Sufferers become confused and disorientated and it can be very frightening for them to live alone. You may have space in your home and the time to look after them yourself. This is a big decision and something that you as a family must decide. However, your work and family commitments, or the size of your house, may mean that you cannot do this.
This is when you have to make the difficult decision to move them into residential accommodation. Nearly 1.4 million people in the U.S. live in nursing homes so this is a common issue facing many families. There are many nursing homes to choose from and you will want to pick the best one for your relative. Here are some things that you should look out for when you visit a nursing home.
Check on the food
Food is one of the great pleasures of life and can become even more important as you get older. If you are not busy doing other things, your next meal becomes very important. It is vital that it is something that you can enjoy. There are two things that affect how enjoyable the meal is. They are where you eat it and what you eat.
Take a good look at the dining room. Is it a pleasant environment to enjoy a meal? Would you be allowed to visit your relative and enjoy a meal with them? It is also important that your relative has the option of eating in their own room sometimes if they don’t feel like venturing into the dining area. Is the seating pleasant and is the dining room light and airy?
The food itself is also vitally important. It needs to be both palatable and well presented. It also needs to be suitable for each resident. Some may have allergies, some may be on low-sodium diets and some may need pureed food. All needs and requirements must be catered for.
It is also important that a record is kept of what the resident has eaten. Anorexia is a real problem in some elderly people. They lose their appetite and simply stop eating. This needs to be detected early on and interventions put in place.
Listen carefully when you are in the nursing home
Use all your senses to make up your mind about the home. You may hear crying out and shrieks but you should not be alarmed as this is common for residents with dementia. However, it is important to listen to how the staff talk to the residents. They should be addressing them using their names and not using names such as ‘Pops’ or ‘Gramma’ as this indicates that they have not bothered to learn the resident’s names. They should enquire how your elderly relative wants to be addressed. They may prefer a more formal ‘Mr’ or ‘Mrs’ to begin with until they begin to feel more relaxed.
What does the nursing home smell like?
This is a delicate subject. There will inevitably be some incontinent residents and this can present a challenge to the nursing home owners and employees. There will always be the odd accident but, to retain the dignity of the resident and to make it more pleasant for other residents, this situation should be controlled. If the home strongly smells, it means that the monitoring and cleaning regimes are not up to scratch.
The staff should not look stressed
If the carers are rushing around and don’t have time to talk to you, it could indicate that the nursing home is understaffed and this is a problem. It could mean that they do not have time to attend to your relative’s basic needs. It also means that they will not have the time to chat and comfort your relative and this makes a lot of difference.
Can you see any of the employees stopping and talking to the residents? Are they sharing a joke with them or taking the time to walk with them out in the garden? There have been instances where poor staffing levels have led to residents being neglected and suffering psychological or physical harm. You are perfectly within your rights to consult a nursing home injury lawyer if you suspect that this has happened to a member of your family. Your lawyer can investigate your concerns and prepare a personal injury claim if the home has failed in their duty of care. If you win your case, you will get some compensation and it sends a message to the nursing home that they have to improve their procedures.
Signs that things are going wrong
There are several signs that the care provided in a home is not up to the required standards. If several residents have physical injuries this may mean that they are being abused. It can also mean that they are experiencing trips and falls. Measures should have been taken to prevent this. Residents should not have bed sores. There are strict protocols that should be followed to prevent this from happening.
They should also look happy and content. There should be a variety of activities, both inside and outside the home, and there should be evidence that these actually take place. It is not enough for them to be written in the brochure, ask if you can visit when they are actually happening.
With the correct care, your elderly relative can enjoy their final years in a well-run nursing home.