If you have several facilities to choose from, the decision may be more difficult and will take longer than if you don’t have many choices. In either case, you want to visit the homes at least twice. Make one visit during the day and another during the evening to see if you notice any differences in what goes on.
Before you go, buy a notebook! You will want to take lots of notes during your visits. It is also a good idea to prepare a list of questions in advance. It is easy to get overwhelmed and forget everything you wanted to ask.
Plan to bring someone with you. Two sets of eyes and ears are better than one! Pay attention to how the staff and residents look. Are staff friendly? Do they smile? Do they speak nicely to people? Do the residents seem happy? Are they involved in activities?
During your visit, ask lots of questions! The purpose of the tour is for you to get your questions answered, and the staff want to be sure that you have the information you need to make the right decision for you and your loved one.
Here are some questions to ask:
What is there for people to do? Are there both group activities as well as individualized programs to suit the needs of each person? Ask for a copy of the recreation calendar.
What are their policies? Are there visiting hours, or can you come and go at any time?
What is your loved one allowed to bring with them and what is provided?
Are there meal choices available or does everyone have to eat the same food? Can they accommodate dietary restrictions? Request a copy of the monthly menu.
What is the staff to client ratio? This is important to ensure that the staff are not overworked and stretched too thin.
What is the staff turnover rate? If there is high turnover, it will be more challenging for you and your loved one to get to the know the staff and develop relationships.
What healthcare professionals do they have in-house? Who makes up the interdisciplinary team?
How safe or secure is the building or unit your loved one will be on? This will be especially important if your loved one has dementia and is at risk for wandering or eloping.
Do they have a welcome package for families and information that you can take home to read?
After your visit, write down your observations and compare notes with the person that went with you. What was your overall Impression of the facility and the people that you met? Don’t be afraid to call back with any questions you may have forgotten to ask.
Take time to decompress and relax! This can be a stressful and emotional time for family members. Make a cup of tea and read any information they gave you to take home.
It takes time to visit and research the various facilities in your area, but it will be a worthwhile investment. Moving a loved one to a long-term care home is no easy task and you want to get it right the first time!