Finding a Nursing Home or Hospice

Nursing homes provide care for resident patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The goal is to help people live as long and comfortably as they can, given their advanced years and possible health conditions. Some nursing homes include hospice care in their service offerings. Others only provide nursing home care, requiring a patient to either move to an in-patient hospice care facility or receive in-home hospice services if hospice care is needed. In a hospice center, hospice workers help a patient with grooming and hygiene, monitor vital signs and feed the patient, if he or she is unable to feed him or herself.

Hospice care services include a combination of psychological, spiritual and medical support to help people spend their last days of life in relative comfort, dignity and peace. Hospice workers may help to control a person’s pain or other symptoms in order to help him or her stay as comfortable and alert as possible. Finding the right nursing home or hospice center is a matter of knowing your needs and looking in your area to see what options are out there.

Features and Benefits

Nursing homes and hospice care facilities offer extensive services. However, each facility is unique. Some of the features and benefits to look for in a nursing home or hospice center include the following:

  • Three prepared meals per day.
  • Semi-private or private rooms.
  • Housekeeping and laundry services.
  • Assistance with everyday activities like dressing and bathing.
  • Managing medication.
  • Providing different therapies, such as speech, physical or memory.
  • Social, cultural and religious activities.

Any facility that lacks these basic attributes should be eliminated from your consideration. Chances are, you can find plenty of facilities to choose from in your desired areas that will offer you at least a few or several of these options.

Setting and Environment

You can find nursing homes in all different sorts of settings, from giant campuses to intimate household locations. Hospice care, similarly, can be provided in a hospital, a nursing home, a hospice center or at home. The setting you choose for a nursing home or hospice center will play a large role in your experience as a patient of the facility. Do you prefer a large operation or a small, intimate facility? Are you permitted to decorate your room as you wish? Are you permitted to wake up and go to bed and bathe when you see fit or only on a preset schedule? Do you have access to food and beverages whenever you want or only during certain times? How is the food? These are questions to ask yourself considering ideal care.

The ratio of staff members to residents may be a factor for you too, depending on how much personal attention and time you require. The friendliness, attentiveness and patient rapport of the staff may also be a consideration. For example, do the staff of a given facility wear name tags, know the names of their residents and knock on doors before entering? Do all the facilities you are considering have at least one licensed physician on staff? If you think you might be able to spend some time outdoors, consider the grounds of the facility as well, including how private, secure and accessible it is. If you have friends and family nearby, the visitor policy may be a consideration. It may also be important whether you can have televisions and phones in your room.

Quality of Healthcare

The benefits and other characteristics of a nursing home or hospice aside, what you are there for is proper health care. Place a priority on the level of training, credentials and expertise a facility’s staff holds. At minimum, a nursing home has 150 quality mandates to adhere to in order to be certified to accept Medicaid and Medicare. Such requirements may include preventing the mental and physical abuse of patients and safe food storage and handling practices. Nursing homes are rated based on their overall quality of care by the State Survey Agency. The report produced by the results of these inspections is available for public view. Other healthcare quality concerns you may have about a facility include whether or not you can use your own personal doctor, whether you receive a copy of your own personal health care plan and what healthcare goals a facility sets for you as a resident patient.

Special Considerations

The expertise and skill set of the staff is another important consideration. Some nursing home and hospice care patients may need specialty support for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, for example. Patients who are cannot move on their own make up another subset who may need special accommodations. Some nursing homes and hospices may even have separate dedicated wings in their facilities devoted to patients with special needs.

If you will need special medical equipment on hand, like dialysis machines or oxygen tanks, make sure you find out ahead of time if a facility you are considering can provide them. Some nursing home and end-of-life facilities may allow patients to keep their pets with them for their stay. If you are a pet owner or allergic to pets, you may want to take this factor into consideration when checking out facilities as well. If you do not spend much time outside, it may be all the more reason to ensure adequate natural lighting and ventilation in the indoor spaces.

People to Ask

Fortunately, you already know many people who may be able to help you in your search for a nursing home or hospice. You can start by asking your doctor, social worker or hospital discharge planner for referrals. Beyond them, you can also seek recommendations from neighbors, friends and family. Everyone knows someone who is or has been in the later stages of life. That means people you know could be a potential resource. If you lack any of these contacts to probe, reach out to a social service agency. Speak with a case manager about the hospice care and nursing home possibilities available. Locate your nearest Agency and ask there as well.

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