If you're in the process of selecting a short-term rehab care facility for your loved one, you might feel a little overwhelmed, and you wouldn't be alone. Choosing a care center, especially when there are several to choose from, can be confusing. If you're like most people, you probably have a list of things you're looking for in a rehab center, but you may not have given a lot of thought to what you don't want to find. Here are four red flags you should keep in mind when you get to the touring stage of the selection process:
- You're restricted from visiting certain parts of the center (outside of private residents' quarters, of course). You know those “how to get ready for guests in a hurry” articles that tell you to polish only the spaces they'll see and let the rest stay in a slovenly state? Business owners read those too—even rehab center owners. Unless the area is secured for some legitimate reason or serves as private living spaces for other patients, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to view it. Keeping areas out of view during your tour should serve as a warning sign that the spaces you're seeing are being “cherry picked” while less desirable—and even dangerous—areas are being kept out of view. In short, any area your loved one may visit, even briefly, should be available for viewing by you and your loved one during the tour.
- You're discouraged from chatting with other residents. Getting a “feel” for a rehab center relies a lot on learning how other residents view the facility. And that means chatting with other residents about their experiences with lots of different aspects of the center, including the facility itself, the staff, the activities and medical care—even the food. If your tour guide tries to prevent you from speaking with residents or restricts your tour to areas where residents are not accessible, ask why. And if your tour guide provides you with access only to residents they've selected to speak with you, it should also raise a red flag. You want to be able to chat with residents you meet throughout your tour without the feeling that the responses have been scripted.
- There's a low staff-to-patient ratio. This one is a no-brainer: The fewer seniors each staff member is responsible for, the better. It means that your loved one will receive not just more attention, but better-quality attention as well. After all, a therapist that has 10 patients has much more time to devote to each person than one who sees twice that number in a single day. Also be sure to ask about the ratio of certified staff members to patients. Any facility can make their staff-to-patient ratio look great when they include every single staff member, including cleaning and kitchen personnel. The number of certified staff is what you're really interested in.
- You notice unpleasant odors. Cleanliness is, of course, a major factor in whether your loved one will enjoy his or her stay at the facility, but it's also critically important to maintaining good health. Lingering unpleasant odors, including the odor of urine, body odor or mildew, may indicate the center's cleaning standards are not up to par. Also beware of strong floral scents that could be used to try to mask odors, and which could also trigger respiratory issues. Ideally, you should notice no odors at all, or at the very most, a faint smell of disinfectant in areas that have just been cleaned or in rehab areas where equipment must be cleaned between patients.
Of course, the more information and research you do ahead of time, the better your search process will be. To help you navigate the selection of a short-term rehab center, you might want to check out this guide from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid; it's about long-term care, but many of the same ideas and guidance apply to short-term centers as well. The National Stroke Association also has plenty of helpful resources which can be useful even if your loved one is seeking care for an issue other than a stroke.
Choosing a rehab center can be nerve-wracking, even when you know it's in your loved one's best interests. Taking your time to visit and compare facilities can provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they'll receive the high-quality care they need.