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Nursing Homes

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Following mom’s open-heart surgery she was sent to a nursing home for recovery. However, the hospital she was at had an excellent cardio rehab, but her Medicare or Medi-Cal didn’t cover it. Why would that be? It only covers her ICU recovery and surgery, but not the rehab. Don’t get me started.

I had been through a heart-attack with my husband years ago, but going through it with mom was another story. It was scary, frustrating and exhausting all at once. If you’ve been through it, ya know exactly what I’m talking about. Once they did thorough testing, they knew the next step was open-heart surgery.

Do your research!

I mean REALLY do your research. Don’t make the same mistake I did thinking a quick visit was good enough. It’s not.

elderly with walker
Photo by Gerd Altmann

The nurse on staff gave us several options for nursing homes that were covered by mom’s medical plans. I visited all but one of them and decided on the one nearest to the hospital. After all, it was right across the street from the hospital. I thought, in the event that mom relapsed, she would be accessible to her doctors. It sounded like a good plan.

The nursing home I chose was the best one out of all of them. That isn’t saying much. All the other nursing homes I visited were over-crowded and wreaked of urine.

It was a hard decision to make given the short amount of time I had. I think it was 2-3 days. In other words, I only had a weekend to visit 5 nursing homes. It seems like a lot of time, doesn’t it?

I visited mom in the hospital every day. First of all, I didn’t want her to feel lonely and second of all, I didn’t want her to feel scared and alone. Just discovering that she had memory loss, I was also concerned that she may feel lost and confused

Above all, I really wanted to be present when the doctor came to check up on mom. Pen and paper ready to take notes so I can update my brothers properly. However, some days I would wait 1/2 hour to an hour. Other days, it could be 2 to 3 hours. In other words, it didn’t give me a whole lot of flexibility to visit 5 nursing homes.

Certainly, I don’t mean to criticize nursing homes overall, just the one mom was at. I advise you to be mindful of the overall environment, even at the best of facilities. I’m not just talking about the physical space, but observe behaviors and interactions of patient/nurse. I was truly naive in thinking they were going to take care of mom the way I would take care of her.

Mom had a roommate that blasted the TV all night long. When I brought this to the staff’s attention, they said they would take care of it but they didn’t. Mom got no rest, no one came to walk her hourly as required, only the Physical Therapist came at their scheduled time twice a day. Mom came home with bedsores, swollen legs and the medication from the cardiologist never got prescribed to her as requested. These are the things you need to pay attention to.

“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” ― Rosalyn Carter

Here are my personal tips when considering a nursing home:

My personal tips are based on someone who will have surgery and will enter a nursing home for recovery time.

  • Before surgery begins, find out if your parent will need to be transferred to a nursing home for recovery
  • Obtain a list of nursing homes approved by their insurance, preferable nearby locations
  • Give yourself ample time to visit each facility
    • interview the staff personal (aside from the directors)
    • engage in conversation with other patients, if permitted
    • engage in conversation with other visiting adults (you can meet others in the recreation room or outside sitting areas)
    • take a look around each bedroom (not just one room)
    • take a look at the toilet room (again, not just one)
    • Are they showers or bathing facilities? (I assumed every nursing home had one so I never checked which is why my mom ended up with bed sores)
    • Will they give them a sponge bath? If so, how many times a day and do I need to provide bathing supplies? Oddly enough, this isn’t on the checklist that Medical has posted (see link below)
  • Physical therapy
    • Do they provide it?
    • How many times a day?
    • How many times a week?
    • What will they do during each session?
    • What type of clothing will she need?

Again, here I am, leaving it up to all the people I would consider experts in their field. I was so naive or perhaps so overwhelmed. Frankly, I think I was just terrified of losing mom. No wonder I wasn’t thinking straight. You get it, right? Consequently, my mom had to return to the hospital because of the lack of confidence I had in myself.

Nursing Home Checklist:

Here is a great checklist that I feel addresses the things that I experienced when mom was in the nursing home. You can find a more detailed list of each of the following topics here.

  • Basic information
  • Safet & Care
  • Abuse Prevention
  • Nursing home appearance
  • Nursing home living spaces
  • Menu & Food
  • Staff
  • Residence Room
  • Activities
  • Care for Dementia Patients

If you can, I would find a nursing home specific to your needs like dementia, cardio recovery, Alzheimer’s, etc. Even for the healthiest seniors, it’s not one size fits all.

Long-Term Nursing Home

Based on my experience, and friends who are experiencing being the caretaker for their parent, we have collectively noticed that the people who don’t have regular visitors don’t seem as healthy as those who do. More importantly, they don’t seem to be attended to as frequently.

A friend of mine lived here in Los Angeles and his mom was in another state so he couldn’t see here daily. He was ridden with guilt. He constantly got calls from the nursing home saying her clothes were missing which meant someone kept taking them because he kept sending new ones. So sad, right? Either there was theft going on or someone misplaced them after washing. Regardless, she obviously wasn’t getting good care. No one was watching over her or her things. She had dementia. The staff should be much more attentive to those with dementia. This is why I feel you should find a nursing home that specializes in something specific if it is a long-term illness.

In the end, finding a nursing home for your folks nearby or near other family members would be ideal. I know that it’s not always possible, but just food for thought. It goes back to my story on senior loneliness. I’m sure there are fantastic nursing homes out there that have the most excellent care. But for most, like me, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.

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