What to Look for in a Nursing Home

March 23rd, 2016 by Attorney Roger Weinberg

If you need to place a loved one in a Maryland nursing home you face a difficult decision. What’s the right place and who are the right people to care for my family member? To come up with the best answer you should do some research, visit nursing homes to see them for yourself and ask questions of the administrator and staff.

The American Association of Retired People (AARP) has several useful suggestions for what you should do at a nursing home to help you narrow down your options.

  1. What do you hear?

If you hear moaning or someone yelling “help,” it will be unsettling but is not necessarily a sign of poor treatment. It may be a symptom of dementia. Listen to how the staff talks to residents. They should use residents’ names. Staff should address a resident as that person wants to be addressed. If they’re using “grandma” or “honey,” the resident may feel disrespected and diminished, and problems with that person may follow.

  1. What does it smell like?

Nursing homes don’t smell like daisies. Medications and special diets may make residents more gassy. Some may lose control of their bladder and bowels. While a whiff of something bad isn’t necessarily a problem, if the place reeks of stale urine or feces,  the facility or its residents are  not being cleaned properly.

  1. Is the staff overworked?

Talk to nursing assistants and other staff. Do they work a lot of overtime and double shifts? If they do, it’s a sign of short staffing that can negatively impact resident care. An overworked staff is a stressed staff who may neglect residents, lash out and abuse them, and may be more likely to make mistakes leading to falls and medication errors. Ask for the facility’s health and inspection reports and home’s staffing ratios or look it up on the Nursing Home Compare tool at Medicare.gov.

  1. Do you see bruising?

A black and blue mark may not necessarily be a sign of abuse, because as we age our skin becomes more fragile and certain medications can make the skin more sensitive. However, some bruises — like a finger-shaped bruise on an upper arm, handprint-shaped marks on the face or stomach, or bruises on the back, areas unlikely to be bruised by a fall — should raise red flags.

  1. How does the facility handle a fall?

Residents may fall even while living in the best-managed nursing home, so you should ask how the staff reacts to one. Do they:

  • Check for injuries?
  • Help the resident get up off the floor safely?
  • Check the resident later in the shift for injuries that weren’t apparent at first?
  • Find out why the fall occurred to see if changes need to be made to prevent more falls in the future?

The State of Maryland has two checklists you can use to help you find out important information about nursing homes. One checklist is to be used if you are planning ahead for placing a loved one in a nursing home and another can be used if the need for a nursing home is urgent.

Though personally visiting group homes or nursing homes and asking the right questions may reduce the risks to your loved one, no matter how hard you try to make the right decision and how good the nursing home and its staff may appear, neglect and abuse do occur at Maryland nursing homes.

If a loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, contact our office. We can talk about what happened, what can be done to prevent it from happening again, how the law may apply and your options for obtaining compensation for the injuries that occurred. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.

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