When searching for a home for your loved one, there are many things to consider: cost, location, room types, assistance available, and the list goes on. Perhaps the most important, yet often overlooked factor, is safety. While everyone would hope for a senior living community to be a safe place for their loved ones, the reality is that some communities are safer than others.
Knowing what to look for, both in person and online, can help you determine if the community offers a safe and comfortable environment for your loved one.
You can find out a lot about a community based on online reviews. While a bad review may not automatically mean the community is unsafe or a bad fit for your loved one, it can give you a sense of the worst-case scenarios families have encountered.
Also, when touring the community in person, you can bring up the negative experiences you’ve read about and see if the facility is aware of these complaints. It could be that the situation was isolated and has been remedied in some way. On the other hand, the response may show a community is truly not a good fit for your loved one.
When reading reviews, there are a few tell-tale signs that the home has a history of safety issues. When reviewers mention factors like emotional abuse, physical abuse, negligence, a decline in personal hygiene, sudden weight loss, injuries from falls within the community, malnutrition, dehydration, and deceptive practices, but you are still considering the community as an option, be sure to gather as much information from the staff and dig for personal accounts from other members of the community.
The best way to determine the safety of a facility is to tour it yourself. Prepare a list of questions to ask when touring a senior living community. Pay attention to any tripping hazards, poor lighting, slippery floors, dated equipment, or unsafe furniture. Also, pay close attention to the way staff and residents interact. Look for a community feeling, a sense of independence, and respect.
Take notice of the cleanliness and care of the building. Outside of smell, also look for signs of dust, mold, or general clutter in the rooms as well as common areas and hallways.
In ideal situations, the staff-to-resident ratio is one-to-four or very close. A low staff-to-resident ratio is good for a few reasons. Most of all, it prevents staff from being responsible for caring for too many residents at one time. When a caregiver is responsible for several people at once, that individual is likely frantically hopping from one person to another. The stress of caring for too many people at once can easily result in negligent or sloppy care, even with the most well-intentioned and thoughtful caregiver.
Signs that the staff is stressed can often be observed during a tour. If people are running back and forth, equipment or phones seem to be sounding at every moment, or nurses are audibly complaining about the amount of work they have to do, then you can safely assume they are overworked.
Aside from asking your tour director about the staff-to-resident ratio, you also will want to inquire about staff turnover. Do not be afraid to be blunt and ask about turnover, which staff members have been there the longest, and who has been around for more than a decade and their positions. Ask if staff members often grow in their positions or move from department to department.
It’s important to get a sense if a community has an issue keeping care staff because your loved one will receive the best care when they see a consistent group of faces. When a caregiver gets to know your loved one on a personal level, they are more likely to give quality care that protects your loved one’s physical and emotional safety.
Outdated Practices and Technology
Medical research continually reveals better practices for caring for our senior community. Many of these advances relate to bettering the emotional as well as the physical well-being of seniors. Ideally, a community has tuned in to these changes and is regularly reviewing their approaches and techniques.
When touring and asking questions, be on the alert for outdated medical equipment, and heed any mention of care techniques or practices that seem antiquated. Ultimately, you want your loved one to feel safe and respected. Unsafe practices often ignore the dignity and independence of residents.
Be Confident in Your Decision
Ultimately, pay attention to your gut. If you get the sense that a community will be a bad fit, follow that instinct and consider another community for your loved one.