When It's Time For A Nursing Home

Pakistani rescue workers and police officers remove their injured colleagues from the site of a suicide car bombing in Lahore, Pakistan, May 27, 2009. AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 1.6 million Americans live in nursing homes. Admission to these facilities can be traumatic for everyone involved. On The Saturday Early Show, tips on how to choose a nursing home are offered by Claire Berman, author of "Caring For Yourself While Caring For Your Aging Parents."

The book is designed to be a guide for people who are involved in caring for aging parents (and for those who see care-taking in their future). It centers on the emotional stresses and needs of caregivers, while addressing practical issues they are likely to confront.


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Berman, drawing on her own experiences, the experiences of many other adult children, and interviews with specialists in geriatrics, discusses the wide range of emotions that can accompany care-giving. She discusses the practical tools necessary to balance the needs of the parent and the caregiver. Her book is completely revised with new information on nursing homes, as well as updated statistics and resources.

Here is part of Berman's pre-interview with The Saturday Early Show:

At what point is someone ready for a nursing home?
It is not when the patient is ready to be placed in a home but when the caregiver decides it is the right option. The three biggest reasons a person is placed in a home is if they are incontinent, are constantly sleepless or when they have dementia and don't really know who is caring for them.

Some children will place a parent in a home the first time an adult diaper needs changing. Other people can handle changing diapers and will keep their parents with them as long as possible. For children who are close to their parents, this is an opportunity to give back.

What do you do when that person says no?
Many people who are still of sound mind dread the thought of being placed in a home. But sometimes this is the only option and they need to be told that every other option such as home care has been exhausted. If the problem is money, let the parent know that home care won't work because it costs too much.

Suppose you feel a nursing home is the right option, and your brother or sister says no.

Siblings often don't agree on when a parent should be placed in a home, and this can cause a great deal of tension in the family. Old emotions are often dredged up such as one sibling feeling that the parent likes the other better. At the first sign of any dissent, bring in a third party, such as a social worker, who will look at the situation with no prejudices.

Some of Berman's tips on choosing a nursing home:

  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It's best to plan ahead. You may even want to look into nursing homes before your parent is in need of one. The last thing you want is to be forced into a situation that isn't right. A person can fall ill and require round-the-clock care very quickly. A spur-of-the-moment decision is a bad one

  • WHEN VISITING, BRING A FRIEND ALONG. Visiting a nursing home is a very emotional experience. Children often become overwhelmed and find they get distracted. So you'll want to bring a good friend along. After the visits, you can compare notes.

  • CHECK ACCREDITATION AND STAFFING. This is very important. You want to know that the place you are sending your parent to is safe. You'll want to make sure the home has the proper licensing or any violations against it. You'll also want to make sure the facility is properly staffed. Are there enough nurses? Is there a doctor on site or nearby if an emergency arises?

  • SPEAK TO RESIDENTS AND THOSE WHO VISIT THEM. The best way to get a real sense of a nursing home is to speak with residents. Ask if they are properly cared for. Is the food sufficient and nutritious? You'll also want to speak with a resident's family member. They can give you their impressions and talk about how satisfied they are with the facility.

  • ASK FOR AN ACTIVITY CALENDAR. Many homes put out a calendar of the week's activities. Ask for one when you are visiting and see if the things that are being promised such as a piano performance are really happening. The last thing you want to see when visiting a home is a group of people surrounding a television with glazed looks.
After you have picked a home you think is appropriate, what is your role?

According to the author, it is now up to you to become an advocate for your parent. That means making frequent visits. While there, speak with the staff and get an update on your parent's condition, what medications they are taking. The staff at the home know your mother or father as they are today, you have to introduce them to the person that was.
  • Ellen Crean

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