How to Pick the Right Nursing Home

Coming to terms with having to place an aging loved one in a nursing facility is very difficult. Once the decision is made, the task of choosing a home can be overwhelming. Hire a Geriatric Care Manager to assist you with locating a safe nursing home, and to alleviate any fears you may have regarding the placement of your elderly loved one in such a home. If you are a long distance caregiver, a Geriatric Care Manager can provide the eyes and ears you need to ensure that your loved one is receiving the best care possible. To learn more about what a Geriatric Care Manager can do for you in South Florida, visit us at

How to Pick the Right Nursing Home

Selecting the right nursing home for your mom or dad has always required what seems like a never-ending series of difficult decisions. But with cases of abuse and neglect against elderly on the rise, those questions have given way to an even scarier thought: Will my parent be safe? And while there are no guarantees – Mom may just not like the food, after all – there are ways to vet prospective homes, maximize quality of life, and minimize your risks.

Eventually, about 40% of adults over 65 years old will at some point spend time in a nursing home, according to Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist and the author of “How We Age.” The facilities serve adults who can no longer tend to themselves on a daily basis, and a population that is, by definition, vulnerable. While there are no national figures on elder abuse, several states say cases have been “increasing steadily” over the past few years, according to the U.S. government’s March 2011 “Elder Justice” report. In Virginia, the number of reported elder abuse cases jumped 27% from 2008 to 2010, to 17,141, while Florida reported an 18% hike, to 51,539 cases. In fact, adult protective services’ officials from six of the nine states contacted for the report — chosen in part because they have a high proportion of older people — said that the number of elder abuse cases in their states had risen. And those cases are expected to spike as the boomer population enters its golden years, says Kay Brown, a director at the Government Accountability Office, which wrote the report.

That data doesn’t specifically examine abuse in nursing homes, but experts say nursing home residents can be particularly vulnerable. For starters, it’s estimated some 60-70% of the roughly 1.5 million nursing home residents in the U.S. have dementia, easy prey for abusers. “In nursing homes, dementia is the greatest risk factor [for abuse] because the perps don’t imagine that the person feels abuse of neglect so they act with impunity,” says Agronin. Combine that with fact that employees are often underpaid and overworked, and the potential for neglect or abuse is high, he says.

Of course, there’s no foolproof strategy for picking the perfect home. And the steps are the same whether you’re most interested in preventing the worst or planning for the best. Here’s where to start and what to consider:

Lay out your options.

Step one in any search, say experts: Determine which nursing homes in your area are worth at least a look. Start out by casting a wide net. This online tool will locate the nursing homes in any specified area and tell you how they rate on two measures: quality of care and how much time the staff spends with residents. Winnow your list down to only homes with four or five stars on quality of care, and 3.5 to 4.5 hours of nursing care per resident per day, says Larry Minnix, president of LeadingAge, a coalition of more than 5,400 organizations that support older Americans. Next, along with recommendations from doctors and friends, you can consult for free with a long-term care ombudsman in your area. These advocates for nursing home patients can give you the scoop – good and bad – on local facilities, says Andrew Carle, the founding director of the senior housing administration program at George Mason University.

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