Archive for Sunday, January 7, 2001

Sense for seniors

January 7, 2001


We are going to have to put my dad in a nursing home in the next few months. He's suffering from dementia and has just become too much for Mom to care for, even though a couple of us kids live close enough to help out some. How is the best way to approach finding a nursing home? How do we know the good from the bad other than looking at the reception area and the administrator's office? Does someone compare nursing homes in our area?

You are about to make one of life's most difficult decisions. You are wise to spend time investigating your options.

First, let me suggest some resources. Available from the Kansas Department on Aging (KDOA), your Area Agency on Aging, or perhaps your local senior center, are two helpful booklets:

"Resource Guide for Seniors" is a new publication. It is a revision of what used to be known as the "Legal Guide." It is filled with helpful topics covering many things besides nursing homes. Every older adult family should get a copy of this guide. It will be a valuable reference tool in many situations. The guide does have several helpful pages on nursing homes.

"Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home" is an 18-page booklet from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that gives an overview of things to consider when selecting a nursing home. It is also available from KDOA. For these two booklets contact the department on its Web Page at, or call (800) 432-3535. You can also check with your Area Agency on Aging.

Kansas Advocates for Better Care (KABC), a statewide, private, non-profit organization, has new county-by-county reports that compare nursing home and assisted living facilities.

The report compares two critical pieces of information: inspection deficiencies and nursing hours per resident day. These two facts provide consumers immediate evaluation of which care homes in their counties are providing better quality care than others. The report is available in table format. The information is gathered by KABC from state and federal government sources. Kansas consumers may purchase the individual county comparison reports by calling KABC at (785) 842-3088. Their in-state toll-free number is (800) 525-1782. The cost is $5 or $10 depending on the county, based on the number of nursing homes that must be covered. You may also order another type of deficiency report (FIND) for any nursing home across the United States.

Start with facilities near your home or close by for easy visitation by friends, family and physician. When you have narrowed the selection to a few facilities, visit them to determine the quality of care received by residents. Check to see if the residents are well groomed and appear to be actively participating in activities. Evaluate the appearance and taste of meals. Rely heavily upon your impressions of staff attitudes and your reaction to the facility.

Good luck in choosing the best possible place for your dad.

If you have a question or comment for "Sense for Seniors," write to Betty Gibb, Kansas Senior Press Service, 11875 S. Sunset, Suite 200, Olathe, KS 66061. Telephone: (913) 477-8103; e-mail:

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