Red Flags When Looking for Senior Care Options
Red Flags When Looking for Senior Care Options
By Becky Bongiovanni | President of CarePatrol Staff

Looking for care options for an aging loved one can be a daunting task. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 15,600 nursing homes in the United States. Nursing homes represent a smaller segment of senior care options, when compared to the steadily growing Assisted Living sector. There are approximately 28,900 assisted living communities with nearly 1 million licensed beds in the United States today.

Assisted living has increased in popularity over that past 25 years, because they offer a home like environment with a focus on supporting an individual’s independence, in stark contrast to the institutional feel of a traditional nursing home. Additionally, since the Covid-19 outbreak, more and more families have decided to look for alternatives to nursing homes.

Selecting care for your loved one is a very personal decision. Understanding what to look for and potential warning signs is crucial when looking at your options. Below is a list of questions to ask and things to be aware of:

  • Is the nursing home or assisted living licensed and did they pass an inspection conducted by a state government agency? When they say they are not allowed to show it or they do not have access to their state or government
    inspection that’s a red flag. What are they trying to hide?
  • Did they have citations? Which ones directly impacted patient care? Did they correct all citations in a timely manner? What corrective measures were taken to address the citations? What actions have they taken in the past six months to improve quality care and staffing issues?

    Citations that directly affect the health and safety of patients that are not addressed are red flags. Medication errors are red flags. Lack of transparency is a red flag. It is normal for issues to arise, but how the care community responds to it is the key.
  • Are the staff friendly and respectful? Do they appear warm and polite? Overworked, impatient caregivers and staff are a red flag of problems brewing. Management should show care and concern for the staff as well as the residents.
  • What are the policies in place to ensure residents are not abused? Does every staff member have an up-to-date background check?Is the staff training on how to spot abuse and neglect as well as procedures in place to report abuse and neglect?

    Unfortunately, some of the most common citations are lack of proper documentation on background checks. You have a right to know the date of the last background check on the staff that are caring for your loved one. You also have a right to know what kinds of training and policies that protect the safety and wellbeing of patients and residents have been set up and how often they are reviewed with the staff. You should receive information on how to report concerns about the care and safety of your loved one. If a nursing home or assisted living facility cannot provide this, it is a red flag.
  • How many staff members are providing care during the day? Does it change on weekends and evenings? How many residents/patients are they caring for? Are the staff that provide care also doing other roles such as admissions, activity director, janitorial or kitchen duties.

    Sometimes care communities require all staff to be licensed or certified caregivers, but that does not mean that those people are dedicated around the clock caregivers. You want to identify how many full-time caregivers are on staff for each shift and compare that to the overall residents/patients. Also, test the call buttons to see how long it takes for a caregiver to respond to a resident or patient for help. It is a red flag when there is not enough staff to adequately care for the residents. Frequent turnover in staff can be an indicator of management problems and cause disruption to the resident’s daily routine.
  • Follow your “senses.”Are residents clean, well-groomed and dressed appropriately? Are there unpleasant odors lingering? Do residents appear genuinely content?

    Strong urine or unpleasant smells can mean people are sitting in soiled diapers, clothing, or bedding. Residents moaning, crying without being consoled could be a red flag.
  • Are residents encouraged to have autonomy? Are they offered choices? Are they encouraged to help plan or choose activities that they like? Can they choose what time they wake or go to bed? Can residents have visitors, and can they leave to go on outings? Do they have the freedom to exercise their religion or cultural preferences? Quality of life is a significant factor to an individual’s health and wellbeing. Limited freedom and choices can be a red flag.
  • Make sure you have the opportunity to talk to residents and their family members. Visit several times and at different times of day to get a feel for what the home or community is like. Many communities are very accommodating with virtual tours and meetings. With vaccines underway, several communities are allowing in person visits again.

Our mission at CarePatrol for over 25-years has always been to make sure that people looking for care are armed with all the information in order to make an informed decision. Protecting older adults is our highest priority as seniors are the heartbeat of our business. Choose a safer senior housing option with CarePatrol.

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