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Choosing a long-term care facility

Posted January 01, 2014 in Advice Column, Perry

All your life you’ve been making buying decisions. Do I like the red or the green one? Which car to purchase based on efficiency? Which church, restaurant, school… which long-term care facility?

Every retirement home is different, and most pride themselves on offering quality care. In the age of Internet shopping many have gone facility shopping. The federal government through, its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has established a five-star rating system that evaluates long-term care facilities on staffing, quality measures and health inspections during the past several years.

One measure is based on the number of health inspection deficiencies, which measures the number of deficiencies and not the magnitude. For example, a violation counts as much against the rating as one that is serious. While the rating system measures the hard data, it doesn’t take into account the type of residents and the nature of the care needed. Making a quality decision must go beyond Internet and include getting to personally know the facility.

So what should you look for?

For many people the first two tests are smell and food. How fresh is the facility, and are there any odors that would indicate improper care of residents? Ask to be served a meal and determine for yourself the quality and quantity of the food. Visit with the head housekeeper and learn about the cleaning schedule and with the dietary director to learn about menu choice and dining options. Does the home provide meal choices or simply a set menu?

Once you get past the facility ambiance and the smell and food tests, find out about the philosophy of the place. Are residents engaged in important activities that keep them valuable members of society or are they mostly stored and entertained? For people suffering from dementia review the activities, are one-to-one and how frequently do they occur.

Visiting a facility more than once is also important. Vary the times you enter the facility and learn how the rhythm changes after hours or on weekends. Watch the staff to see if they are involved with residents or stay in a monitoring mode at the nurse’s station.

The final test is checking with family members of residents. If they simply tell you their loved one liked it there, that’s good, but if they tell you they loved it, indicates good family communication, team work between family and staff, and love and care by the staff for loved ones.

Rating and ranking measurements are a good place to start when “shopping” for an extended home care, but goes beyond the numbers. Take the time to personally investigate, and make the best decision for yourself and your loved one.

Information provided by Pastor Max Phillips, CEO, Partnership of Perry Lutheran Home and Spring Valley Assisted Living Campus, 2323 E. Willis, Perry, (515) 465-5342.

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