Solving the puzzle in finding superior care for your loved ones

Deciding to move a loved one to a skilled nursing care facility is a daunting task. There are queries families face together, and ultimately understanding what questions to ask before transitioning can ease the entire process.

Jamie Weis-Jones, an administrator with Imperial Health Care, has 15 years of experience working with seniors, first as a speech therapist in skilled and nursing rehabilitation centers, and now as a nursing home administrator. She knows what a family may encounter in choosing a new nursing facility for their loved ones, and offers her expertise in solving the puzzle of finding a superior facility in Florida.

“First, when families visit a facility, they should do their research. They should also visit two or three facilities to compare one to the other. They should ask what payment forms are accepted, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance,” said Weis-Jones.

Then there are food choice questions. “Ask if meals are nutritious and appealing. Also, ask if a registered dietician prepares the meals.” Weiss-Jones suggested. “Also note if there are special dietary requirements, and if a menu can be specialized for your loved one to meet their needs.”

Keep your eyes wide open, too. “Look around the facility, and see if the building is well-maintained and clean, and free of odors,” said Weis-Jones, adding “that rooms should be well-equipped with conveniences, such as electric beds, and also see if the bathroom is a private bathroom, or if it shared.”

“I always recommended people to check the state of Florida survey results, which are displayed in (facility lobbies), and these survey results can also be found online.”

And sometimes a second visit to a home may provide a more complete outlook of the overall care of residents who live there.

“Families should look at residents and patients to see if they look happy there,” she said.

Weiss-Jones also suggested not to hurry through the transition process. “Common mistakes I see are people not doing their research, and they rush through the selection process. I recommend a second visit. If people are not sure, or if they are unable to make a decision, a second visit can help ease the process.”

Communication with staff is another key piece of the puzzle in finding a home for a loved one.

“It is important they communicate with staff what their loved ones routines were at home as much as possible, so we can find out more about them,” she said. “This information guides our caretakers to keep our patients more comfortable.”

For those searching for Alzheimer care units, the different levels of Alzheimer’s disease should be taken into consideration.

“Look for a facility that is well-versed in programming, and especially in continuing education for staff,” said Weis-Jones. “If you are going to a Alzheimer’s care unit, you need to have a very warm and calm environment.”

Throughout the selection process, look at healthy activities offered within facilities, such as specialized physical, occupational and speech therapy areas for rehabilitation. Community activities, and even social events such as bingo, knitting, bridge tables and crafting areas can bring residents together to meet new friends.

Troy Hart, the president of Santa Fe Senior Living Communities and sponsor of the Terraces at Bonita Springs, agrees with Weiss-Jones.

“It’s a tough decision, and I’ve dealt with over a thousand placements throughout the years, and it becomes very emotional for families,” said Hart.

Hart explained that services to seniors should be stellar in every level of care, including nursing staff to the rehabilitation team, and the food service team. “You want to make sure you’re honoring them, by the way you provide services,” he said.

Whereas many families rush the decision process in choosing a facility, Hart recommends that families take a moment to preplan and engage loved ones in deciding where they want to ultimately want to live. “The more say they have the better, and we need to help them make wise decisions. If you start to think there is a health issue, you’re in a crisis mode, and you might make a bad decision.”

All puzzle pieces of the decision will come together as long as family and loved ones work together in the process.

“It’s their life. The more say they have, the better,” Hart said. “We need to help them make wise decisions, and the more help you give them sooner, the better off they will be in finding the best possible place to live.”

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To learn more about short and long term healthcare oversight and advocacy in Florida, go to http://ombudsman.myflorida.com/AboutUs.php

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