Making the decision to place your loved one in a long-term care facility can be difficult. Many people wish to take care of their loved ones on their own for as long as possible. But when a family member is declining, families often face day-to-day and month-to-month challenges that can be quite overwhelming. As a result, this is the time to begin thinking about admission to long-term care in a skilled nursing facility.

When I tour families at the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, some are prepared in terms of knowing what to expect, yet others are very apprehensive about placing their loved one in a facility. Most of the time, this comes down to a difference in experience or exposure to skilled nursing facilities, but it can also be based upon misconceptions or preconceived notions about long-term care. Regardless, I give the same advice to all of our families: do your research. I encourage families to start by researching skilled nursing facilities online, checking their ratings, viewing department of public health scores, and taking tours of their facilities. This research gives families the facts as well as an opportunity to develop their own opinion and feelings about the safety and security of the facility. Plus, it’s extremely helpful for families to get to know staff who will be providing care to their loved one.

My main focus on a tour is to show the families how well and naturally our staff interacts with the residents. There is no “show” to put on, no wand to wave, no costumes or role playing; they see the real, lasting and genuine relationships that are formed among our long-term care residents and the staff who care for them. Another critically important element to my tours is showing families our activity programming. At the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, we have worked hard to build a comprehensive, engaging and fun program that helps meet the residents’ social, emotional and intellectual needs. The bottom line: our residents are happy and excited to participate in programs and activities. This is an important observation for families.

Following the tour, I sit down with families to discuss the admissions process. It is generally the same for everyone, but relies heavily upon the long-term bed availability in the facility at that moment in time. If no appropriate long-term beds are available when a family comes to tour for their loved one, I will then explain the waiting list process. I ask families to provide an array of documents to help expedite the waiting list process, including: history and physical from the physician; a brief summary letter from the physician; a list of all current medication; current nursing notes; and therapy notes (if coming from a different facility). I communicate the fact that depending upon when a bed becomes available, the waiting period can range anywhere from six weeks to a year. Lastly, I recommend to families that they call me on a bi-weekly basis to keep in touch and to let me know about any changes in the status of their loved one.

Before the family departs, my priority is to establish a relationship with them. There must be a mutual understanding of their loved ones’ needs and our facility’s capacity to meet those needs. Often, families leave with a changed perspective on placing their loved one in a facility. Most importantly, they leave with a newfound respect for long-term care and skilled nursing facilities.

This blog is courtesy of Veronica Cabral, Admissions Coordinator for the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home in Chelsea, MA.