Choosing the Right Nursing Home (FAQs)

Our Baltimore Nursing Home Attorneys Are Here to Protect Your Loved Ones!

An illness, a disability, or old age can make it impossible for a loved one to take care of themselves. As a son or daughter, it may be your responsibility to find a nursing home care for your mother or father, but do you know what to look for to make the right choice? Just as you would if you were purchasing a new home or leasing another car, you need to do your research and ask the important questions before making a decision on a nursing home.

1. Is the facility clean, maintained, and temperature adjusted?

A nursing home should provide a comfortable living situation for all residents. As you go on your search, look for clutter-free hallways, well-lit rooms, clean bathrooms, comfortable beds and furniture, working electronics and modern technology. If the nursing home looks outdated and dirty, that’s not the place you want your loved one to live.

2. Will your loved one have freedom?

Look for a home that allows residents to roam freely and has programs designed to reduce isolation. Without independence, a resident may fall into depression and/or loneliness.

3. Will your loved one get enough to eat?

While older folks may suffer from a severe loss in appetite, it does not mean they should go hungry or malnourished. Your nursing home of choice should have a plan in place to combat any issues of anorexia or constipation.

4. Are residents protected from theft?

Poor mental health can make it difficult for a resident to keep track of all their belongings. Ask the home how these possessions are protected. Aside from lockable cabinets, a home should have a list that tracks every resident’s belongings.

5. Will your loved one be able to keep their doctor?

Most nursing homes have assigned physicians, which means a resident may have to leave the doctor they’ve been seeing for years and feel most comfortable with. Ask the home how often the physicians see the residents and what the health care plans look like.

6. Who’s responsible for paying the nursing home bills?

While a nursing home bill can be split among several people, there’s always the risk that expenses may be accidently sent out to other relatives, forcing them to pay. Read up on the state laws regarding billing and check out the fine print before signing a contract.

7. Are there smoke detectors, sprinklers and emergency exits? Do they work?

Federal law requires nursing homes to have all of the above in working condition. As you tour the facility, emergency exits, smoke detectors and sprinklers should be common enough that you easily spot them. Ask an employee how often smoke detectors are tested; the answer should be at least once a month.

8. Is there a security system?

If there isn’t a security system in place, that should make the decision easy for you. Security systems not only keep intruders from breaking in—they also keep residents with dementia from wandering outside and possibly getting hurt. A security system should include cameras, alarms, and people standing watch 24 hours a day.

9. Are residents clean and well-groomed?

Poor hygiene is just one sign of neglect. Many nursing home residents need daily assistance with bathing, grooming and getting dressed. If bed sheets aren’t changed, residents can get bedsores. Aside from the health factors, being well-groomed and appropriately dressed is a matter of dignity for every resident.

10. Are staff members clean?

According to the New York Times, many nursing home employees are cited for “hand hygiene” deficiencies. When choosing a nursing home, look for one that is adequately staffed; usually, understaffed facilities have the most hand-washing issues.

11. Is there neglect or abuse occurring in the home?

Staff members may initially be polite, respectful and warm, but you should look at how residents react when interacting with employees. Do they seem comfortable? Or do they withdraw? If you notice a resident exhibit fear or apprehension around certain caregivers, it may be a sign of nursing home abuse.

12. What is the staff-to-resident ratio?

Under federal and state law, a nursing home must have enough staff members to meet the needs of their residents. In Maryland, nursing homes must have a registered nurse (RN) on duty during the day, seven days a week, and a licensed nurse on duty 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, there are no minimum staffing levels for nurse's aides, who provide most of the day-to-day care.

13. Are the nursing assistants adequately trained?

Nursing homes sometimes hire untrained workers to become nursing assistants, due to understaffing. Do your research and look at how many assistants have a degree as a CNA.

14. Will a nursing home provide all the care a resident needs?

Yes, they should. If a nursing home tells a resident to seek outside assistance, for an additional cost, this is negligence and should not be tolerated.

15. Is the physical therapy unit up to par?

Ask if the physical therapists are on the staff or just doing contractual work. A modern and adequately staffed physical therapy unit is likely to give better service.

16. Are there activities for everyone?

Not everyone wants to play bingo. A good nursing home should offer a number of activities, such as gardening, art, and cooking classes.

17. Will your loved one have privacy?

A private room may be too expensive to afford, which is why a nursing home should offer shared rooms with adequate partitions so residents can have some privacy.

18. Are the nurses at the home full-time employees or temporary workers?

Many nursing homes are understaffed, so they tend to hire temporary “agency nurses” who rarely form lasting bonds with residents. Look for a home with a staff that has at least 80% permanent nurses.

19. Can you sue a nursing home if something happens to your loved one?

A clause known as a “binding arbitration agreement” may stop you from suing a nursing home. You must read through all of the fine print before making a decision and signing on the dotted line.

At Brown & Barron, LLC, we understand the many issues that families confront when placing a loved one in a long-term care facility. Our compassionate Baltimore nursing home abuse & neglect lawyers have helped many families deal with legal issues related to nursing home care. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us today at (410) 698-1717.

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