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How to Choose a Nursing Home

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The decision to move a family member into a nursing home or assisted-living center is not an easy one, but it’s a consideration more of us will be faced with as the aging population increases. Senior citizens — those 65 and older — make up the fastest-growing population segment in the United States, and according to the Administration on Aging, the number of those 65-plus is estimated to jump from about 14 percent of the population at its current level to nearly 22 percent by 2040.

Nursing Homes and the Risk of Neglect or Abuse

With the rising number of senior citizens comes a heightened risk for elder abuse and nursing home negligence.

A report from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) indicates that nearly 1 in 3 U.S. nursing homes has been cited for violations of federal standards that have had the potential to cause harm, or resulted in harm, to residents. Negligence and abuse in nursing homes and assisted-care facilities can come in many forms:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional or psychological abuse
  • Neglect
  • Financial exploitation

When choosing a nursing home for your loved one, it’s beneficial to plan ahead, do your homework, and consider all your options to ensure the right residence for your family member as well as your own peace of mind.

Specialized Care for Nursing Home Residents

One of the first issues to address when seeking a nursing home is whether your loved one has special requirements that may be outside the boundaries of care offered by certain facilities. For example:

  • Does your family member have any physical disabilities?
  • Does your loved one suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
  • Does he or she have a medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease or another ailment that requires regular medication or specialized treatment?

Discuss these issues with prospective nursing homes in advance. Some facilities have extensive experience or specialization in particular conditions.

Nursing Home Research

After you’ve assessed your loved one’s basic care needs and narrowed in on a location range, it’s time to research your options. Valuable tools for finding and evaluating nursing homes in Oklahoma and Arkansas include:

  • The Medicare Nursing Home Compare site; although not all nursing homes are certified to participate in Medicare or Medicaid, this site collects data on the more than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide that are, and it includes data on health inspections, caregiver staffing and quality control
  • State long-term care ombudsman programs; the Oklahoma Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the Arkansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman provide survey and inspection results for long-term care facilities, as well as information regarding complaints at specific nursing homes

Another great resource is good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Ask family members, friends and trusted healthcare providers about their personal experiences and recommendations. Use their feedback to build your lists of qualifications and questions.

Interview, Visit and Visit Again

Get in touch with each nursing home on your list and gather as much information as you can regarding:

  • Costs and payment information
  • Caregiver-to-patient ratio
  • Typical daily schedule for residents
  • Dining schedule, and access to food and drink
  • Process for assisting those who require routine medication or health treatments
  • Policies for contacting a personal physician and family members in the event of a medical emergency
  • Visiting policies
  • Cleaning and sanitation protocols
  • Security measures
  • Protection of patient rights

Visit your final prospects at least twice. Your first visit should be scheduled and include a tour with a nursing home director or member of management who can explain the facilities’ services and policies, and answer your questions.

Your second visit should be an unscheduled “drop-in” during the nursing home’s regular visitation hours. Use this visit to:

  • Observe the cleanliness and safety of the surroundings
  • Watch staff behavior and personal interactions between each other and residents
  • Note residents’ hygiene and quality of life
  • Assess the quality of food
  • Detect any foul or unusual smells, such as overwhelming odors of urine or cleaning chemicals

Don’t be afraid to ask any questions that arise on your visits.

If you suspect a loved one is a victim of nursing home negligence or elder abuse in Oklahoma or Arkansas, the attorneys at Carr & Carr are here to help you take action with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Please contact us online or call 866-510-0580 for your free consultation.


National Center on Elder Abuse; Research Brief: Abuse of Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities; http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/Resources/Publication/docs/LTCF_ResearchBrief_web508.pdf

National Council for Aging Care; Aging in Place: Recognizing Elder Abuse and Knowing Your Rights; http://www.aginginplace.org/guide-to-recognizing-elder-abuse/

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