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How to choose a nursing home

December 16, 2000

How to choose a nursing home



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


The Washington County Commission on Aging has information about the 12 nursing homes and 10 assisted living centers in the county, but won't recommend one over another, said Julia T. Burke, director of long-term care programs.

The questions potential customers should think about, she said, are: Small or large? Private pay or insurance assistance? How close to home?

"In general, our long-term care facilities do a wonderful job, and the care providers for the most part are very dedicated and caring people," Burke said,

There are several ways to get the facts.

The official U.S government site for Medicare information (www.medicare.gov) has a list of the nursing homes in each county, city and zip code in the country.

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The owner, medical categories of residents, number of beds, state inspection results and size and qualifications of the staff at each facility are listed.

In its booklet "Nursing Homes: What You Need to Know," the Maryland Attorney General's Office offers suggestions for people looking for a nursing home for a friend or relative.

The booklet recommends:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Visit a nursing home on a weekday, around the middle of the day.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Check rooms, closets, bathrooms, halls, cafeteria and grounds.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Watch if residents are comfortable and treated well.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Observe meals being prepared and served.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Picture yourself getting around in a wheelchair.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Smell for strong chemical deodorants masking unpleasant smells.

The booklet has a detailed checklist for prospective customers to use during their visit.

Cavescout.com, a Web site set up by National Eldercare Referral Systems Inc., gives some of the same basic information, along with comments from the public. People can rate facilities they have seen on cleanliness, the admissions process and social activities, among other factors.

Burke said the public can look through annual state nursing home and assisted living center deficiency reports at the Commission on Aging's Hagerstown office or at the Washington County Free Library. Each care facility responds to any problems with a "plan of correction."

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