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Difficult Choice: Take the Right Steps in Choosing a Nursing Home

New York’s population is aging and many families will eventually have to confront the decision of selecting the right nursing home for a loved one.

New York City has one million residents 65 and older, representing 12 percent of its population. That number is projected to increase by 300,000 to 15.5 percent by 2030, according to a recent New York Times article.

The number of Silver Alerts issued for missing seniors by New York City’s Office of Emergency Management nearly doubled to 155 last year from 79 the previous year, according to the article.

Because of the difficulty of keeping watch over parents with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other health problems, the families of aging parents in declining health often realize that a long-term care facility is the best option.

The harder choice, once that decision is reached, is finding the right nursing home. You want a nursing home that will provide attentive care and allow your loved one to live with dignity. You want a nursing home in which you can place your trust.

As New York personal injury attorneys who have assisted families dealing with the consequences of nursing home neglect and abuse, we’ve compiled a list of recommendations from the National Institute of Aging, the New York Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help you make the right choice.

Talk to friends, relatives, and others you trust who might be able to make a recommendation based on personal experience.

Consult with your loved one’s physician to see if he or she works at any local nursing homes and can continue providing care.

Check Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html for a list of local nursing homes. Consider only nursing homes that are certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Home that don’t pass inspection are not certified.

The Administration for Community Living offers a service called Eldercare Locator to connect seniors with services such as nursing home locations. Go to eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116 for information.

Hospital patients often are discharged to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Speak as soon as possible to the patient’s social worker to identify a nursing home that fits your loved one’s needs. This will make the transfer easier when the hospital discharges the patient.

Go to Medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html for a list, enabling you to compare Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes.

Make visits to each nursing home on your list. Look at the cleanliness of the rooms and patients and consider how friendly the staff members are to you, your loved one, and the existing residents.

Check with the New York Department of Health or the state’s licensing agency to find out about the quality of nursing homes in your area. These agencies should have copies of surveys and complaint investigation reports.

Determine whether residents are treated with respect.

Check to see if patients take part in social, recreational, religious, and cultural activities.

Find out if those living there are allowed to decide when they sleep, eat, and take baths.

Are visitation times limited?

Does the facility provide transportation to activities in the community?

Are pets allowed to stay there or visit?

Can patient rooms be decorated to provide the resident with a more enjoyable atmosphere?

Will your loved one have privacy when visitors come by and when personal care services are being administered?

Will the patient be allowed to leave for a few hours or days and how difficult is it to leave temporarily?

Find out what doctors will provide services and whether your loved one’s personal doctor can come to the facility.

Who will make the plan and how closely will it be followed?

Preventive care could be necessary such as eye and ear doctors, dentists, and podiatrists. Do the nursing homes offer them? Are flu shots and pneumonia vaccinations offered?

Find out what steps the staff takes to protect residents and keep those with dementia and Alzheimer’s from wandering away from the facility.

Review the nursing home’s inspection report to see if it has any problems with patients getting lost or leaving the property.

Determine if the facility has enough staff to give your loved one the care they need, including certified nursing assistants and social workers. Nursing homes do not have a minimum staffing ratio requirement. In New York, the requirement is that staffing must be adequate to meet the needs of residents.

Contact the New York Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman if you are concerned about the staffing level of a facility.

Check to see if the nursing home meets your loved one’s religious preferences, including diet options to meet faith practices.

Inspect dining areas and sample the food to ensure meal times will be enjoyable.

In your research, you should be able to find out if the administrators and nursing homes you’re considering are licensed in the state of New York and whether they are certified by Medicare and Medicaid. If so, they’ve passed inspections done by the state.

Ultimately, you and your loved one must feel comfortable with the nursing home. It likely will be the home of your parent or loved one in their final years. Doing research before admission will go a long way toward making sure your parent or loved one can live their final years with dignity.