The novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to challenge the way that Americans do most things – including how they live. For families with loved ones who are elderly or require specialized care, the coronavirus pandemic is especially challenging. What are families to do if they cannot care for their loved ones? Aren’t nursing homes vulnerable to outbreaks? How can families find a quality nursing home?
To answer these questions, our own Texas nursing home abuse lawyer, Charles Brown, weighs in on how to find a quality nursing home during a nationwide pandemic.
Finding Quality Nursing Home Care During a Pandemic
In an interview with KSAT.com, Mr. Brown explains what families can do to find quality care and ensure their loved ones are safe.
Understand Your Budget
Determining your budget is an important step in choosing a nursing home. Nursing homes that offer more specialized services may have a higher price point than those focused more on independent or assisted living. Mr. Brown points out that while it may seem crass to focus on price, it is a “really important point” in determining which facilities may be right for your family.
The level of care goes hand-in-hand with budget preferences. Nursing homes are designed to meet the needs of residents with medical needs, or those who require specialized care. There are nurses on staff at nursing homes, while there may not be at assisted living facilities. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, then you need a higher level of care, which likely will cost more.
Use Online Resources to Scout Possible Facilities
When considering possible nursing homes, families can learn a lot by using online resources. The most notable resource is Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool. This tool allows you to view data on facilities. Facilities with a history of deficiencies are identified using a red hand icon. According to Mr. Brown, this tool is useful because,
“They have data on staffing, they have data on incidents, they can tell you the number of residents that get a bedsore.”
Another good resource is your state’s long-term care Ombudsman office. The Ombudsman’s office has information on assisted living facilities and nursing homes. You can learn more about the long-term care Ombudsman by visiting the Texas Health and Human Services website. The National Consumer Voice also has a search tool that allows you to look up an office in your state.
Be Aware of Different Regulations
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes have different regulations. Nursing homes have much more strenuous health and safety regulations than assisted living facilities. Keep this in mind when considering possible facilities. Nursing homes are more likely to have reports of deficiencies because there is more oversight. Assisted living facility regulations relate more to the building and general regulations. Nursing home regulations relate more to health, safety and food regulations.
Mr. Brown recommends families take a look at reviews posted online and take the reviews to heart. He says that if a facility has a series of reviews about the same problem, that it should not be overlooked. That does not mean the facility is a no-go, however. Mr. Brown recommends,
“If you see two or three reviews that all have the same problem, maybe you don’t say, ‘I’m never going here,’ but you at least know to say to the director of nursing, ‘hey, I saw you’ve had this problem in the past, how did you resolve it?’”
An excellent facility can have a setback or a deficiency. That does not mean that the facility is “bad.” What families should consider is how the facility handles said setback or deficiency. If it was successfully and swiftly resolved, then additional problems may not be an issue.
Visit Nursing Homes and Talk to Staff
When considering a nursing home for your loved one, Mr. Brown says one of the most important things families can do is visit the facility and talk to staff members. It is common for potential residents and family members to meet with the facility administrator, but Mr. Brown says families should also speak with staff members. He says,
“I think one of the mistakes that sometimes people make is they forget who is actually going to be caring for the residents.”
Mr. Brown recommends meeting with the nursing director and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). These are the individuals who will be working with residents hands-on. When you meet with CNAs, pay attention to their demeanor. Are they polite and well mannered? Can you feel their concern and compassion for residents? Do they come across as mean or gruff? The answers to these questions may highlight some red flags.
Do More Than a Guided Tour
Most nursing homes offer a guided tour to potential residents and their families. The guided tour is a good starting point to see what the facility and grounds have to offer. However, Mr. Brown advises families to do more than just a guided tour. He recommends:
- Visit areas of the facility where your loved one will be spending time.
- Take notice of smells. A smell of urine or strong cleaning products may be a red flag.
- Take notice of residents you come across. Are they clean, groomed and happy?
- Ask to see the food that is served to residents. Or, see if you and your loved one can participate in a meal.
It is recommended to find a facility close enough to family members who can visit regularly. This helps ensure care is consistent, and will help residents feel confident that they have support.
Once you have decided on a nursing home, your next step is getting answers to any questions you have and solidifying your loved one’s care plan. Asking questions throughout the process is important, and you should not settle for castoff answers. Mr. Brown recommends asking questions about:
- Activities and Services – Find out exactly what activities and services the facility offers. Are these available to all residents? Is there a fee involved for these services?
- Medical Records – Find out what the facility requires you to do to have complete access to your loved one’s medical records.
- Care Plan – Ask about the process for developing your loved one’s care plan. Many facilities hold a planned care meeting, which family members should be invited to. If you do not hear anything about such a meeting, ask them.
- Paperwork – Before you sign any paperwork, make sure all of your questions are answered. If you have questions about the paperwork itself, speak up and ask for clarification before you sign it.
Nursing Home Legal Guidance
If at any point in the process of choosing a nursing home you feel unsure, or elements of the process are unclear, trust your instincts. It is perfectly okay to ask questions and get clarification. If you feel like you are not getting the assistance you need from the facility, you can always contact a lawyer to find out what your legal rights are.
At MedMalFirm.com, we offer support to families considering nursing home care, as well as those with concerns about nursing home abuse or neglect. If you have questions about your legal rights, or that of a nursing home resident, contact us. Attorney Charles Brown and his team are well versed in Texas law pertaining to the rights of the elderly. We can help you make sure that your loved one gets the care that he or she deserves.
To learn more, call MedMalFirm.com at 877-887-4850. You can also request a free consultation via our online form.