March 22, 2005
There are over 1.5 million residents living in nursing homes in this country, and with Alzheimer's disease on the rise, that number is growing.
An area nursing home was recently fined $10,000 for failing to protect a resident from sexual abuse. Although sexual abuse is a rare occurrence at nursing homes, there are other things you should look out for. If you are considering putting a relative in an assisted care facility, experts say the best advice is to be involved in the process.
"More important than anything else is to try to plan ahead to the extent that you can," said Gordon Walker, CEO of the Jefferson Area Board of Aging (JABA). "When making this difficult decision, there are several issues to consider."
First take a look at the employees.
"What is the staff turn-over rate?" asked Walker. "Make sure they have a steady work force."
"We feel that our staff has their longevity," said John Ehle, Executive Director of The Cedars Nursing Home in Charlottesville. "A lot of our staff has been here for the past 20 plus years, and we feel that that love right there is the foundation to provide great care."
Talk to people who have family living there, word of mouth can give you the best information. But experts say nothing can substitute for a visit to the facility.
"A lot of time we tell family members who are touring the building to look for sight, sound, and smell. Do the residents look good, are they clean, is the building clean? Is this a place I'd want to put a loved one?" asked Ehle.
When visiting, stop by at different times of the day.
"Nursing homes routinely have three different shifts. So you may go in the morning and everything looks fine, but if you go in the evening or the [next] morning you may see things very differently," said Walker.
There are also alternatives to nursing homes.
"Assisted living as a step down for nursing home care [is an option]. But also there are community based alternatives. JABA has an adult daycare program. There are good agencies providing homecare-services in the home for people," said Walker.
JABA provides free advice for people looking into nursing homes. You can also search www.medicare.gov for reviews and inspections on specific nursing homes.