Comparing Care Homes: 7 Key Factors to Help You Decide

Sarah scrolls through a directory of care homes in her city and wonders where to begin. She knows that she needs to find a home for her mom, and the sooner the better. Do they all offer the same basic services? She looks at her schedule for possible times to visit some of the care homes. The whole process is feeling hurried – but entrusting a home with her mother’s care is not a choice Sarah wants to rush.

How can she sort through the care home choices to find the one that will provide her mom with the professional care and personal compassion she deserves?

There are seven key areas that separate the best care homes from the rest; these factors can help you identify the homes that are going above and beyond in providing outstanding care for their residents:

  1. Healthful Meals with Plenty of Variety: A care home’s meals can provide you meaningful insight into how they care for their residents. If you like, you can schedule your tour of a home over the mealtime, or even request to eat a meal at the home to experience it firsthand.

    Care homes that offer a robust meal plan offer a variety of food choices and regular rotation of menu options. Look for healthy, fresh and tasty meals that provide a well-balanced array of choices for residents to enjoy. Mealtime should also be a chance for all residents to sit down together and socialize.

    What Does This Mean For Your Loved One? Outside the care home, mealtime is often when families gather to enjoy delicious, healthful, homemade foods and enjoy being together. Inside the care home, meals should feel the same way. Your relative should enjoy meals in the home as a great time to socialize over a tasty meal.

  2. Engaging Activities and Creative Programming: While all care homes will offer some kind of programming and activity schedule, it is important to consider whether the activities are customized to individual residents’ interests and needs, or whether the home simply provides a one-size-fits-all programming schedule. Does your relative like playing cards every afternoon? Or perhaps they prefer engaging in some light exercise every morning? A care home that adapts their activities to their residents’ interests is one to look for.

    Outstanding activity programs weave activities into a natural flow throughout the day, with a focus on genuine engagement for its residents. Rather than adhering to a rigid activity schedule, quality care homes train their staff to work from an “activity toolkit” that can adapt to a resident’s preferences on any given day. They still offer a variety of activities, from small group to large group entertainment, but the underlying focus is always on creating meaningful and enriching connections and interactions for its residents.

    What Does This Mean For Your Loved One? A care home should provide your loved one with the opportunity to direct their own activities throughout the day, according to their interests, while also providing large group options as well. In this way, a care home preserves your relative’s autonomy and freedom to direct their own activities throughout the day- a key element in feeling truly “at home” and in control of their new life.

  3. Experienced and Knowledgeable Staff: The owners and management of any care home should be experienced in providing personal care and in navigating the health care system. This is especially essential in cases where a more intensive level of care is required, such as if a loved one suffers from dementia. The knowledge and experience of care home staff are key in ensuring that a resident receives the right level of support for their ongoing health care needs.

    You and your family members can talk with care home staff and management to find out more about their experience and background. Care home staff ideally will have a nursing background or a level of combined knowledge and experience that is appropriate for the degree of care they are providing. If staff members have never previously provided personal care, this may be a red flag.

    What does this mean for your loved one? The care home staff work as a team to provide a comprehensive level of care that supports all aspects of your loved one’s health. Your relative should have a team around them whose expertise in providing personal care and navigating the health care system ensures the highest professional level of care possible.

  4. Engaged Physician Care: Some care homes provide 24-hour awake staffing, but not all care homes provide 24 hour nursing care. They may also have doctors and other health professionals who will visit to check on residents. You and your family members can talk with the care home about the role of the physician who will be providing care to your loved one. How often does a doctor visit on-site at the care home? Does the doctor make sure to personally visit with residents, or do they receive updates from the nursing staff along with accompanying reports?

    What does this mean for your loved one? Your relative’s physician is a key part of their ongoing care. While the frequency of doctor visits may vary depending on a resident’s particular needs, look for a home where the physician will visit at least once a week.

  5. Provides a Complete Spectrum of Services: There are many levels of care available for supporting your loved one in their day-to-day life, from a home care agency who will visit to help with daily tasks, to care home accommodations with full time nursing care. Ideally, a care home will be able to meet your loved one’s evolving care needs with a variety of services, from independent and assisted living to palliative care. If they provide only care home services, their recommendations may steer families towards a care home option, when a more customized solution may actually be better.

    What does this mean for your loved one? Look for a care home that can provide a full spectrum of care options, from basic in-home assistance to care home accommodations with full time nursing staff, to best meet your loved one’s health needs. This kind of care home will be able to respond to and support your relative’s evolving care plan in a personalized way.

  6. Embodies The Newest, Best Practices: Outstanding care homes bring the top new ideas and best practices into their care model, and seek ongoing improvement in providing exceptional care to their residents. This forward-thinking approach can be seen in everything from the care home décor, to their programming, to their strategic partnerships with other community organizations. Rather than simply following outdated practices, care home owners should demonstrate their commitment to continual progress by actively looking to leverage new programs, ideas and technologies in order to provide outstanding support and care to their residents.

    What does this mean for your loved one? Your loved one will continue to grow and thrive in this new phase of life; the best care homes embrace the possibilities of this phase by bringing a fresh and dynamic perspective to caring for its residents.

  7. Open About Any Additional Costs: The care home with the lower dollar figure up front isn’t always the one with the lower end cost. There may be extra costs for particular services such as special menus, laundry services, hair and foot care, or transportation. You can inquire about additional costs that are not covered in the figures provided.

Choosing a care home for your loved one can feel like a daunting task, but there are key areas you can focus on that will help guide your decision. By exploring a home’s services, programming, staff and commitment to best practices, you and your family will be able to identify the care homes that are going above and beyond in supporting their residents with the professional care and personal compassion they deserve.

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