Monday, January 17, 2011

It's Time to Tour

Using the methods described in previous posts, you’ve narrowed your search and are now ready to tour the potential homes! Based on your phone conversations, you have hopefully built somewhat of a rapport with the director of the homes. I recommend giving a courtesy call to the director to say that you are interested in touring. You can then set up a time to meet the director in person and get a formal tour. However, you are also welcome to visit the homes without giving any notice.

I recommend visiting more than once. The first visit can be just you (and a friend or family support person) because you may further narrow your list and the second visit can be with the loved one you need to place.

Take your checklist and list of questions (and answers you’ve already found out) with you (you didn’t really expect me to advise you to leave it at home, did you?).

You’ve done your homework so you know if there have been problems at the home. Remember that you are your loved one’s advocate so don’t be timid about asking how these problems have been resolved. If the director is not willing to discuss past problems and resolutions then this may not be the home for your loved one. Great communication with The Home is important at this stage and will be a pretty fair predictor of how well they communicate with you once your loved one is a resident there.

Aside from the communication with the director, try to talk with the charge nurse and the CNAs who will be working with your loved one. Ask how long people have worked there and what turnover is like. If the employees are happy working for The Home, chances are your loved one will be happy living at The Home.

What else to look for when touring:

1. Friendliness of both the staff and the residents. Are both the staff and residents friendly to visitors? Stay long enough to see interaction between residents and staff. It's pretty easy to tell if the staff treats the residents with respect and patience.

2. What are residents being served to eat? Consider touring during mealtime. You can see what residents are eating and if there is enough staff assisting everyone. Confirm what meals are provided to the residents and how they are served. For instance, Robert’s home provides breakfast, lunch and dinner at set times of the day but other facilities provide meals during a range of times (breakfast between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., for example). Robert’s home also made a big deal during my tour to tell me they regularly serve fresh fish, vegetables and fruit. They serve pretty good food (believe me, Robert is well fed) but the can opener is their friend so I’m not sure what happened to all that “fresh” food.

3. Smells. Really. Some places smell awful. No one wants to live in a smelly place. Pass on places that smell bad.

4. Consider observing during both the day and evening. What are the residents doing (are they doing activities are staying in their rooms)? Can you find a staff person at each of these times?

5. Look at the room where your loved one will live. Is it well kept? This is a good time to ask what is provided as far as furnishings (bed, dresser, lamp, mini-fridge, microwave, etc.). Also, most places are “cable ready” for television and phone hook-ups but it’s always best to ask just to make sure. This hadn’t even occurred to me at Robert’s first place and I just assumed he would have access to a phone and have cable. This is usually a separate cost and the responsibility of the resident (you).

Phew! Go back home now. Consult your list. You should now be able to narrow down your list to just a couple of homes now. (I’d tell you to eat more chocolate but you’ll start to think I weigh 500 lbs. as much as I push the chocolate).

Next, take your loved one on the tour. See how they like it, fit in, etc. One final tip: only show the homes you will be happy with (you don't want to argue about this).

You should be able to find a suitable Home using these methods. And, if you do have to move your loved one (for whatever reason), you are now an expert at how to find a new Home!

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