Maybe you clicked on this post because you are the child of aging parents who are considering moving into a seniors' home. Or perhaps you are a senior who is considering the move for yourself. Whatever the situation, moving into a long-term or senior care facility is a significant life decision, and choosing what will be your new home, deserves careful research and consideration.
Besides consideration of location and costs, other top-of-mind considerations usually include meal service, visitation rules, and pets. Other frequently asked questions center around social activities, transportation services, and other on-site services offered.
As important as all of those things are to maintaining our comfort, there are some less obvious, but very important questions that relate to quality of care and resident safety, that should not be overlooked.
A high quality long term / senior care facility is one that promotes wellness and independence, and works to maintain (or even improve) residents' functional abilities (mobility).
So, what three (often overlooked) things should you be asking about before choosing a long term or senior care facility?
1. Infection Prevention and Control Policies
Infection Prevention and Control (IPCP) is likely top of mind for many in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, for both facilities and individuals. Still, you should make a point of asking the Director of Care or Director of Nursing Care what their facility's IPCP are.
Infections can spread quickly where people are living in close proximity. This, compounded by the fact that seniors are an elevated risk group, means that the prevention and control of infection is critical in demonstrating duty of care in senior care facilities.
Ask probing questions such as:
- How is proper hand hygiene taught and enforced among staff and residents?
- Is the flu vaccine mandatory for all staff members?
- Are staff members able to take paid sick leave? Are they able to stay home without losing time off?
- How are shared objects (therapy area equipment, common room furniture/activities) cleaned to prevent the spread of germs?
- When was the last outbreak (i.e., infection spreading among residents) in the facility?
- How does the facility communicate with residents, family and visitors when the outbreak occurred?
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2. Staff to Resident Ratios
Make sure to ask about the ratio of staff to residents, both during the day and night.
Although it may seem obvious that a facility would staff appropriately for the time of day and the needs of their residents, accidents happen. You are likely considering moving into a senior care facility because your health care needs can not be safely provided in your own home; you want to know that when help is needed, someone will be there. A facility with a low ratio (a higher number of staff compared to residents), regardless of the time of day, will be better able to assist when needed.
You should also inquire about the qualifications of the facility staff. Are there medically trained professionals (registered nurses, LPNs, physical- or rehab- therapists) on staff, in addition to caretakers? The level of training of the staff and the number of qualified professionals reflects the quality of care that can be provided by the facility.
3. Fall Prevention Practices
Lastly, and crucially, ask about the facility's fall prevention practices. Pay attention to the length of their answer.
Every hospital and senior care facility has a fall prevention plan in place. Yet falls are still the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among Americans over age 65.
Do not settle for a simple 'check box' answer to whether they have a prevention program or plan. You want to hear about the actual process. Ask follow up questions such as:
- How do they assess residents' fall risk?
- What resources do they have for high fall risk residents? (e.g.- restorative care)
- What support do they offer seniors who have experienced a fall? (i.e. - physical therapy, gait training, etc.)
A final recommendation is to seek out or ask for personal references. Look for online reviews of the institutions you are considering. If you go on a tour, talk to the residents.
Sometimes, we don't think to ask the hard questions until we already have a problem. So, ask lots of questions- the easy ones, and the not-so-obvious.