When looking for an acute care nursing home for an elderly relative, you may be overwhelmed by the number of choices available. Your friend or loved one with dementia may also be confused and don’t know where to turn. Even though gerontology nursing homes have become more prevalent in recent years, they are still not common. In fact, the National Council on Aging reports that only about 1 in 10 senior citizens currently live in a gerontology nursing home. This is likely due to the stigma associated with being confined to a nursing home and worries over cost and quality of care among the elderly. However, as more caregivers are forced to care for aging relatives, more gerontology nursing homes will open their doors. Choosing between these options can be difficult and overwhelming. Fortunately, there are certain considerations you should keep in mind when selecting a gerontology nursing home for your friend or family member who is suffering from dementia.
Look for evidence of care in the community first
Senior citizens who are confined to a nursing home are at an increased risk of wandering, depression, and other life-threatening problems. It is important to choose a facility with active staff who can call a local nurse to any emergency, and then call a doctor if you think your loved one is having a health crisis. In addition, a healthy, active loved one in the community can reduce the need for a nursing home. Many seniors who require assisted living arrangements also find community living to be soothing and therapeutic.
Assessing resident independence and needs
For many patients with dementia, the transition to a nursing home is a difficult one. They are dependent on others, particularly family members, and may require physical or occupational assistance to get them through the transition. If this is the case with your friend or family member, you should seriously think about placing that individual in a gerontology nursing home. It is important to assess the level of independence that your loved one has in the community. If he or she doesn’t exhibit any signs of limited independence or the need for assistance, then there is no reason to move your friend or loved one to a gerontology nursing home. Be realistic about your friend’s daily needs and placement at a gerontology nursing home will be more necessary a few months down the road as your friend’s memory gets worse.
Look for evidence of staff collaboration, communication, and coordination
Many gerontology nursing homes are run as businesses. This means that the staff works solely for the profit and has little or no interaction with the residents. To make matters worse, many business owners and managers are uninterested in caring for or monitoring the safety of their aging population. A good gerontology nursing home will have a dedicated staff that works alongside the owner or manager to ensure the facility is well run. A staff member who is interested in running the home and serving the residents will have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to handle day-to-day tasks. These skills can include food preparation, assisting with daily activities, helping with medication compliance, and monitoring vital signs. You should also look for communication and collaboration among staff members. Are there ways in which everyone in the facility can help out if needed? Do people in other departments seem to know how to assist with daily tasks? Are there ways in which communication is not only between staff members but also with patients, visitors, and administrators?
Test the facility to verify it meets your loved one’s needs
Many senior citizens are unable to be interviewed about their care but can provide feedback on facilities. This is called “nursing home quality assessment” and is a process that includes several stages. In the first stage, you will go through a pre-assessment to determine whether or not a facility meets your loved one’s specific needs. If not, your loved one will be offered the opportunity to stay at another facility or be discharged. In the second stage, the assessment will examine such things as the type, condition, layout, staffing, and resources available at the facility. The third and final stage will determine whether or not the facility should be accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). If your loved one is fortunate enough to be in a gerontology nursing home that is accredited, it is very likely that he or she would be better served by staying there.
Aging is a natural process, and everyone grows at different rates. As you make your choices about where to place your loved one, consider carefully the effects that aging has on individuals, as well as the impact of a gerontology nursing home on your friend or family member. There are many factors to take into account when deciding where to place your loved one. If you want to give your friend or family member a fighting chance at a full and healthy retirement, choose wisely. A good gerontology nursing home can make a real difference in your friend’s quality of life.