6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Nursing Home – Massachusetts

By Harry S. Margolis

Yesterday’s Boston Globe followed up on its article about the overuse of antipsychotic medications to control nursing home residents with a short list of questions family members should ask when visiting facilities to choose for their loved one.  Here’s the list:

  1. What percentage of residents are taking antipsychotic medications?  If more than 25 percent of residents in an Alzheimer’s special care unit are taking mood-altering medications, his may indicate that the facility is choosing this quick fix to control residents rather than using behavioral techniques to control aggressive behaviors.

  2. What feeling do you get when visiting the nursing home?  Do you feel welcome?  Does the staff engage with the residents?  Is there a long line of residents in the hallway staring off into space?

  3. What is the patient to staff ratio?  According to The Globe, “The Alzheimer’s Association recommends at least one staff member for every five residents from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.  The ratio should be at least one staff member to nine residents for the overnight shift.”

  4. What are the activities like?  Activities can be vital to the functioning, alertness and happiness of individuals with dementia.  Facilities need to have a full-time activity director who creates “stimulating programs for the mind and body, whether it’s music, art or games.”

  5. Does the facility seem different on weekends?  Make sure you visit and taste the food on a weekend as well as during the week to make sure that your family member gets the same treatment and care seven days a week.

  6. Does the facility have a dedicated Alzheimer’s Unit?  If your family member has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, being in a specialized unit can make sure she gets the best possible care.  “At the very least, a facility should have a staff person specialized in Alzheimer’s care.”

Placing a loved one in a nursing home is difficult for family members who worry about the care their parent or spouse will receive.  Answering these six questions will help assure family members that their loved one is receiving good and appropriate care.  Click here to read the whole article.

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