Don't Pick a Community Just for the Skilled Nursing

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Don't Pick a Community Just for the Skilled Nursing

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Elderly woman sitting in a chair holding a cat

Obviously, the quality and attentiveness of health services is central to your choice of a skilled nursing facility, but health is measured in many different ways. And as we’ve discovered during the past few decades, happiness, satisfaction, security and a sense of community are just as vital as medical care.

So when you go for a visit to a skilled nursing facility, spend some time assessing those qualities that you won’t find on the official list of amenities and services.

Those intangible qualities are important. Think about it.

If you were asked to describe your own home in detail, it’s likely that you would go far beyond square footage, appliances and the overall condition of the house.

You would bring up things like how much natural light you get in the mornings, the colors of your walls, your favorite pieces of furniture. You’d discuss how quiet it is. Or the sound of the birds from a nearby park. You’d mention the sense of refuge you get sitting in your living room on a warm afternoon or the lovely sanctuary of your back yard.

These are the qualities that make for a memorable home.

And it is that word that you are looking for– “home.”

Because a home is precisely what a skilled nursing facility will be to your loved one.

So by all means, be sure that the facilities you are exploring provide excellent health-related services. But just as important, be sure that they have the ability to provide the home-like atmosphere that will give a sense of comfort to your loved one.

To gauge the environment of a community, think about the experiences you have had moving.

Having your furniture in place is good. But there is nothing like hanging a favorite painting on the wall, or having a gallery of family photos in front of you.

Find out how much residents can personalize their space.

While most skilled nursing care units and facilities will allow residents to bring in at least a few pieces of furniture, most families don’t think to ask about the little things that make a space homey.

  • Can residents bring their own window treatments or are they stuck with impersonal blinds?
  • If not deemed a safety hazard, can they have a small, colorful throw rug beside their bed?
  • How about hanging artwork or personal mementos?
  • Will residents be allowed to care for houseplants or fresh flower arrangements?

These are the sorts of things that can make a nursing care or assisted living apartment feel like a home. And they are the sorts of things that will help a person who has been uprooted from a long-time home start to feel comfortable again.

Determine the level of interaction and engagement.

Having a varied schedule of activities can be absolutely essential to quality of life.

Virtually all skilled nursing facilities will have activities, but very few are imaginative. And fewer still give residents a chance to help create those activities.

While it may seem strange, having the chance to do familiar chores which you might describe as necessary drudgery– ironing, folding laundry, setting a table–are the sorts of things that might prove to be a comfort. Likewise some activities (or even video games on platforms like Nintendo Wii) are ideal for seniors at all levels of health— yoga, puzzles, painting.

  • Are there appropriately physical activities offered?
  • Intellectually stimulating activities?
  • Opportunities to be creative?

If residents don’t have a list of scheduled activities to choose from, then your parents may not engage in their new community at all.

Residents at retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities have a wide range of abilities, both physically and mentally.

The more comfortable older adults feel and the longer they are able to engage in their surroundings, the longer they will be able to live rich and fulfilling lives.

So yes, the level of skilled nursing care is important, but the ability of a community to meet your parents mental, physical, and emotional needs are factors that should be given an equal amount of consideration.

Enjoy Life after Retirement. Download Our Senior Living Guide  and Find Your Community
Bryan Reynolds
January 21, 2014
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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