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Cases of nursing home abuse are profoundly depressing. The saving thought for families forced to move a loved one from their home is that they will receive the care and the protection that they need in the home. Nursing home neglect or abuse is a betrayal of trust. Those facing the necessity of placing a family member in a nursing home can take some comfort from the realization that competent and compassionate care is the daily norm in a quality nursing home. The odds of a loved one receiving good care can be improved with careful selection.

Notwithstanding the reality that choices may be narrowed by availability, geographical location, and finances, some research before a move can increase the odds of making the right choice. Contact should be made to the Department of Public Health to obtain any information they may have about complaints or deficiencies in a particular home. Be sure to understand the range of services offered as well as the types of residents served. Find out as well if residents with similar levels of independence and mental acuity are placed together on the same floor, or if a resident retaining all or most of their mental abilities will be living in proximity with people too disabled to carry on a conversation. See if the nursing home administrator can provide you with references of families who have had loved ones in the home.

Of critical importance is a visit. While making your visit, ask to see as much of the home as possible. Be alert with all your senses to get a feel of what your family member will experience. Are floors and walls clean? Do staff seem involved with patients and of reasonably high morale, or do they appear to be going through the motions? Is the food of reasonable quality? While temporary odors in a given location may be inevitable if one or more patients are incontinent, bad odor should not pervade the home. Similarly, an overwhelming scent of deodorizer may indicate that malodors are being covered up rather than cleaned. An excellent investment, if it can be afforded, is to hire a specialist in choosing a nursing home compatible with the family member to live there. The best of these specialists are intimately familiar with the nursing homes in their area, and see it as their mission to insure that none of their clients goes to a bad home and that the placement they facilitate is the best one feasible.

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