When Choosing a Nursing Home, Always Ask to Speak with the Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) Who Will Be Caring for Your Parent or Loved One!

If you’ve spent anytime on our site or paid attention to the news you know that serious problems occur in even the best nursing homes. That being said choosing a nursing home is still a very important task and a difficult decision. Fortunately there are a lot of good resources out there.

Quite a lot has been written about how to select a nursing home. One of our favorites is a free guide put out by the Department of Health and Human Services. This guide provides great information and links to even more resources. If you’d like a copy, please fill our our contact form and we will send it to you.

A few years ago, I came across this article by Dale Russakoff in the New York Times. If you’ve read any of our pieces that discuss the role of Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) in nursing homes, you will see why Dale’s suggestions make so much sense. We think more people should take his article to heart during this important process.

Briefly, Dale suggests that when you tour a nursing home you should always ask to talk to the CNAs. He reasoned that high CNA turnover rates are a huge problem in the industry. “The federal government and the states have all identified the turnover rate as a crisis in long term care…Researchers have found that high turnover in a facility corresponds with poor quality of care – more bedsores and use of more restraints, catheters and mood altering drugs.”

Dale points out that there are many reasons for high turnover: low wages, poor benefits, high injury rates and lack of respect on the job. Add to this the fact that far too many CNAs are in situations where there is simply not enough staff to provide necessary care and they are often called upon to do tasks for which they were simply not trained. It’s easy to see that even the most well meaning and conscientious CNA would quickly become frustrated and leave.

When Dale was looking for a home for his mother, he understood the importance of turnover. He always asked to speak with the nursing assistants. He was surprised to find that almost everywhere he visited, this basic request was refused. “I soon realized why” he writes. “In casual conversations in hallways and dining rooms at more than a dozen facilities, I found only one nurse’s aide who had been on the job more than six months. I was witnessing in real life one of the most dismal statistics in long term care: More that 70 percent of nurses’ aides, or certified nursing assistants changed jobs in a given year.”

Finally Dale found a home willing to let him speak with three aides who were on break. They had been at the facility for 12, 8 and 4 years. “I decided this was the place for my mother.”  In the article, Dale goes into detail about what he learned from these quick but seldom requested interviews. We think Dale’s common sense approach should be used by everyone. Shouldn’t you speak with the people who will be providing the bulk of the day-to-day care your loved one receives? If a nursing home refuses, you might want to ask why they won’t let you talk with the most basic caregivers in the building.

You may also want to read our piece on Why problems happen in even the best nursing homes.

But remember, even after you choose the best nursing home for your loved one, you need to remain on guard to help prevent abuse and neglect. Nursing Home Guardians is ready to help with its effective and affordable service so that you can enjoy the piece of mind that comes with knowing that the care your loved one receives is being properly monitored.