Nursing homes: How to get your feet wet

Most people start to look for a nursing home in the midst of an emergency situation, which is not the time to make an important decision. Make an appointment to visit a nursing home or two to see if you or a loved one enjoy the facility. This will give you the opportunity to ask any questions, including detailed questions about cost, insurance, and payment.

Your visit will also serve to calm any doubt or nerves that may exist around living in a nursing home. As with most things in life, it is the unknown that is more frightening than reality. Most people tour a nursing home and find that its comforts are not too different than those at home, and that the environment can provide much needed socializing.

The first thing to consider when selecting nursing home candidates for short-term or long-term care is which specialty care options you or your loved one may require. Some nursing homes specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, others may cater specifically to residents who are going through rehabilitation, and others may not have a concentration at all.

During your visit, ask to stay for lunch or dinner. Dining during a meal service is the best way to see (and taste) the food that will make up all or most of your meals for an extended period of time. Staying for a meal also helps you see how meal service works (time, frequency, etc.) at the home, as it may vary from facility to facility. Some nursing home allow residents to eat any time, within reason, while others serve meals at set times. Some people do well on a set schedule and benefit from that routine; however, others prefer to exercise choice at any given time and want the option of dining at any time.

Pay attention to the other residents and how they pass their time. A nursing home should have some recreational activities for residents, depending on the intensity of care being provided. If you will potentially have an extended stay and require long-term care and require a familiar environment, ask if residents are allowed to personalize the bedroom with personal effects.

Before making any final decisions, get information straight from the source. Ask residents who you meet on your tour what they think of the home; what are the pros and cons? What do they love and what do they want to see changed? When you get home, search reviews to see what different people are saying about their experience with the home.