Home vs. Hospital—Basic Planning to Choose the Right Nursing Home Care

Our nursing home attorneys have been following a recent report covering the importance of choosing a nursing home in the Maryland and the Washington D.C. area. Choosing a nursing home should be a carefully thought out process, carried out by family members who have a clear sense of the patient’s wishes. Unfortunately, families often have a limited amount of time in which to make this decision, often 48 hours or less—when a family member is about to be discharged from the hospital, and is on the path to needing nursing home care.

The report recommends basic planning tips from experts, so that families on deadline can make the right choice and find the right nursing home environment that provides proper care, promotes resident rights, and is free from nursing home neglect and abuse.

Sarah Wells, the executive director of The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (NCCNHR), a Washington-based nonprofit organization that represents consumers looking for long-term care, stressed the importance of discussing nursing home care expectations—if a family member becomes unable to care for themselves at any state or age of life—so there is a clear understanding of the resident’s preferences and priorities. Wells suggested talking about the most important issues of the nursing home care experience, like meals, music, proximity to family members, and visitor accessibility.

Because many important long-term care nursing home decisions are made in a matter of days and not weeks, many decisions become chaotic and hasty. Families are encouraged to use resources like the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare Website and state nursing-home ombudsmen for advice and data. Wells recommends that families should try and visit a nursing facility at lease twice, and compare the ratings and reports to what they actually experience.

Another recommendation is to ask the administrator good questions when visiting the nursing home, like how many hours of nursing care are provided every 24 hours, and how much turnover there is with the nursing home staff. It is also important to visit the home during a time when the staff might be overworked, like during mealtime or after dinner, when there shouldn’t be a shortage of staff. This comparison should give the family a good understanding of the level of care and attention a resident would receive, to avoid any nursing home abuse or neglect resulting in resident injury.

Gerald Kasunic, a long-term-care ombudsman for the District of Columbia recommended that in addition to looking for the basic issues of staffing and care for a long-term resident, it is also important to consider whether this place feels like a home or a hospital. If residents are able to have their own furnishings, privacy, artwork and activities—it is a different kind of environment that feels more like home and less like a hospital-type setting. Kasunic advised that when contemplating nursing home placement, the key is to think in terms of longevity, for the resident’s heath, safety, comfort, and care.

As nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers, we support the rights for Maryland and Washington D.C. residents to live in a nursing home environment filled with quality care that improves and maintain their mental and physical health, and is free from abuse, neglect and criminal acts resulting in injury or wrongful death.

Basic Planning Pays Off When Selecting a Nursing Home, Scripps Howard News Service, November 28, 2009

Related Web Resources:

National Consumer Voice For Quality Long-Term Care, (NCCNHR): Advocate Fact Sheets

U.S. Nursing Home Information & Registry from Member of the Family

Medicare Nursing Home Compare

Maryland Department of Aging

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