By Scott Burns
No matter where you come from, how much money you have, or how beautiful your grandchildren are, one thing is certain: we all get older. As a Social Services Director at a long-term care facility, I get a lot of questions from friends or family that are looking for long-term care options for a parent – or for themselves.
You are hiring a team of people to do an important job: provide care for what should be the most relaxing time of life. Every senior care professional says, ‘they treat your family like it’s their family’ – and they should. Where I work, Walter B. Crook Nursing Facility at North Sunflower Medical Center, we take enormous pride in creating a caring environment with a wonderful staff that treats everyone the way we want our parents to be treated. But in many ways, caring about the people you care for should be a basic requirement, not a selling feature.
Fear of making the wrong choice can create stress and anxiety, leaving your heart tied in knots. Here are a few things I tell people to look for in a long-term care facility to help them know quickly and easily which is going to be the right place for them:
- Cleanliness. Sounds simple, but believe me, it matters. I am a clean freak, and so are the people I work with. Our environmental services “Clean-Team” is always dusting the tops of picture frames and wiping the undersides of tables. From the moment you walk in, check the corners, notice the smells, and look under the furniture. A spotless facility shows me they sweat the details – because how are you going to keep the bedding fresh if you can’t keep the entryway clean?
- Private Rooms. Would you share a hotel room with a person you barely know? Even for just one night? Absolutely not. Then why would you consider sleeping in the same room with a relative stranger for months – or even years? Our facility has 60 rooms and 60 beds. We never have more than 60 residents. Keeping it simple eliminates more headaches than you can imagine. We never have to worry about pairing a light sleeper with a heavy snorer; a talker with a thinker; or a loud TV watcher with a quiet book reader. Beyond that, we also know our therapy spaces will never be overcrowded, and all the games and activities designed to keep you mentally and physically fit will always be open to everyone.
- Outdoor Space. It’s no secret, people operate better with a little fresh air and some sunshine. But taking a walk in the park, or going out in the backyard will not always be as easy as it seems. When I tour a nursing home, I want to see an easily accessible courtyard and big windows to let the natural light fill a room, even when it’s too hot – or too cold – to go outside. At Walter B Crook Nursing Facility, we keep the North Sunflower Medical Center landscapers busy, continuously trimming, planting and re-potting greenery to give our courtyard a fresh, inviting place for our residents to sit in the fresh air and relax with a bit of sunshine.
Of course, there are dozens of factors to consider, including staff to patient ratios, access to a nearby hospital, specialty therapists, individualized care options and others. My experience, however, is that if you keep an eye on the three things you can see, there is a very good chance the professionals running that facility are also closely watching the multitude of vitally important standards of care that you cannot.
If you’d like to see a good example of what I’m talking about, you’re always welcome to stop by the Walter B. Crook Nursing Home in Ruleville. We’d love to show you around.