In 1994, my family asked that I use my background working for a nursing home chain, to conduct a placement search on behalf of our Grandfather. My 12 year old Cousin looked at the list of nursing homes given to us by the hospital and promptly chose “The Little Flower on the Hill” for her parents. She liked the name and thought it prudent to have a place picked out before they were unable to be involved in the decision process. We all thought this random pick of a nursing facility was cute and never recognized the wisdom she held regarding planning for the unexpected.
When families visit a nursing home, it’s typically under the stress of a loved one falling ill. The hospital provides a list of facilities in the area, so there is a choice of placement options. The Nursing Home Compare tool through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare, along with the ease of doing internet searches, allows consumers to access information in the comfort of their home. The end result is a more informed consumer.
We all want the freedom to make choices, whether it’s purchasing a favorite brand of soda or picking a hotel chain over another to accumulate points to achieve Princess Platinum Level. The difference is our ability to make the choice on our own terms and the comfort in knowing what to expect. The scope narrows significantly when a family enters the decision cycle process for nursing home placement.
The good news is that nursing home operators have increased the number of features they offer to meet the requirements of potential patients. Statistics show that 100,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information and the Genworth 2011 Cost of Care Survey, while most people think of long term care as impacting only those in senior years, 40 percent of people currently receiving long term care services are ages 18 to 64.
This demographic shift demands a cultural shift within a building. Last year, a patient asked me for a chilled bottle of water. This is a far cry from the ice water in a plastic pitcher days of nursing care. How do families look beyond the esthetics of a facility, get to the critical care metrics and feel good like anyone making a “purchase?”
When visiting a facility, observe the staff and whether they genuinely enjoy their job and are interacting with the patients. Chances are good that when your loved one needs assistance, the staff will be responsive. Ask what happens when a patient completes rehabilitation and where they go afterwards. Find out what defines the term discharge planning for the facility and what follow up is done post discharge. When a patient and their caregivers are empowered by education about their illness or injury and medications, the likelihood of another hospitalization decreases. Look for equipment in the therapy gym that offers practical value and supports re-tooling a patient’s prior level of function. This means looking at how therapy re-trains the body and mind to do things we all take for granted like meal preparation, standing or getting in and out of a car. Also look for equipment that works to decrease pain so that therapy sessions are productive and pain free. Every facility has its own personality and only family will truly know whether the facility being reviewed can meet their loved ones needs. It is important to look at a few facilities before making a final decision even if the first facility visited offers the WOW experience. The WOW experience is the feeling one gets when walking into the front door based on esthetics and the initial greeting. And while physical presence of a facility is important – things like being clean and free of odors, it is the people providing the care who make the patient experience memorable and is the most critical metric.