In late 2013, the Johnson & Johnson conglomerate was fined more than $2.2 billion in response to a lawsuit which brought to light their “aggressive marketing of drugs, including antipsychotics, to nursing homes.” The lawsuit alleged that the company knew the drugs had not been deemed safe and effective for use in a general elderly population by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At its core, the issue is the aggressive manner—including kickbacks to prescribing physicians—with which the company marketed the questionable medications; the lawsuit brings to the forefront another issue: the unsafe conditions in facilities entrusted with the care of a fragile population.
Making the decision to move an elderly family member into a nursing home is a difficult one. With the exception of hospice, a nursing home will be the last place your loved one will reside, and the their daily care is turned over completely to the facility’s staff—their health and well being is dependent upon choosing a well-run, safe institution. Taking the initial steps in choosing a facility can make the ultimate decision easier. HelpGuide.org gives ideas of what to look for when narrowing the list.
- Start with referrals. Does your family physician or specialist have any recommendations? Or do you know any friends who have used different homes? Knowing someone with first-hand experience of a nursing home can help you narrow your choices. However, remember your needs may differ; one size does not fit all.
- Educate yourself. Online resources for nursing homes include ranking sites that utilize existing state data to rate nursing homes. In the U.S., every state has what is called a long-term care ombudsman, which can be a valuable resource about the current condition of a nursing home. Advocacy groups can also provide hints on searching for the right facility. See the Resources section below for more information.
- Consider your medical needs. Different nursing homes may have more expertise in different areas. Are they experienced in handling your condition, such as for Alzheimer’s or a stroke? Or are you looking for more short-term rehabilitation?
- Factor in distance. In general, the more convenient the home, the easier it is for family and friends to visit.
Experts recommend that, when possible, families take the initial steps in deciding on a assisted living or a nursing home well in advance. Doing the legwork before a decision is a looming necessity can help help make the process easier and less stressful, ultimately leading to an overall better fit for the resident.