How do I find the best nursing home for my parent?


Q: I can't take care of my mother alone anymore, but I've heard horror stories about nursing homes. How can I get some help?

A: I don't know where you live, but not all nursing homes are bad. Many are excellent. You need help and this may be your only choice. When a caregiver gets so she can't care for herself, she can't care for others, either. This isn't good for you or your mother.

And you need to lighten your load so you can study and improve your life. You are seeing one problem with in-home care. I hear it a often. It's on-going, but worse with some agencies than others - no-shows. The fact that they are disrespectful, however, means this is not a good agency, in any way. If you keep in-home care, please try to find another agency. However, from what you say, it sounds like your mother is in need of more care than you can give, even with in-home care.

Just think how horrible she would feel is she knew caring for her was hurting your health. Please tour the nursing homes in your area, ask questions of others who have people in the homes, and at least get her on some lists, as many have long waiting lists - especially the good ones. Whenever someone is in a care home, the caregiver is still a caregiver. You just have more help.

You need to keep an eye on how your mother is treated and visit as often as you can. Don't be too predictable. Go at different times. If she is abused in any way, report it. That said, don't be unrealistic. If we could, we'd all have one on one care for our loved ones, but that isn't an option for most of us. So, visit with open eyes and an open mind. But start visiting and looking and asking questions. You are at a turning point and you must do something in order to survive, yourself.

Carol Bradley Bursack

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

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Yes, Carol has excellent advice. The best way to find the correct care facility for your mother is to know her. Does she need meals served on time (to keep diabetes under control)? Does she need someone stand over her and make sure she takes all of her meds? Is her mind sharp enough to keep a log book of her own care? Does she need mental stimulation from lots of others or does she prefer to "live in her own head?" What is her basic "grouch" level and what moves her out of it? As for physical activity, pay for it if her facility says she's not making enough progress to continue. There are people who will come into the facility and exercise your mom whether she is making progress or not. (I did this for my dad after he went on hospice and he was up and walking with help until the day he died of pancreatic cancer.)
The best way to make any facility work for your mother is for you or someone you trust to show up every day. I know it's a pain, but it's the ONLY way to be assured your loved one is at the front of the line for care. Get to know the staff by name and praise or thank them often (homemade cookies are a good reward). If you can't do this (physical or logistics problems) find someone to do it for you. I used my church's social comity and my parents' neighbors of long standing. Their brothers and sisters proved to be non-starters. It's worth PAYING someone - like the physical therapist to call you the day they visit (just 3 min. to report on how your mother did at the exercise and her mood).
Best wishes and prayers for your success.
The above people gave you good advice-I worked in a hospital and when askd by families I always said choose one near where you live so the staff will get to know and visit at different times of the day and when you see a problem take it to the head nurse on the unit in a calm manner and be prepared to listen to whay they say and if need be take it higher up to the administration. All NH's will have some problems at time but most can be fixed. Take the tours of many places even ones you may not consider because you will learn what questions to ask and get a good feel for what you want in a nursing home-especially look for how the staff relate to the residents-once I saw a aide yelling at a dementia person while I was visiting a lady who also had been a nurse-we were horrified at what we say that day.