Screening Elder Care Facilities in Sonoma County, California
Gain peace of mind by knowing how to visit and screen potential
Elder Care Facilities you are considering for the care of your loved one.
Begin by making a visit to the elder care facility
If you have determined that the elder person in your life will need to begin
living in an assisted care home, the first task at hand is to make a list of
the residential care and nursing home facilities in Sonoma County or the Bay
Area. Some facilities have websites which you can visit for a first introduction,
but the next essential step is paying a visit of inspection to the places
you are considering. Most residential care homes and nursing homes will
have a specific procedure for this which should include giving a tour of
the facility and grounds and having a sit-down consultation with the family
to answer questions. Remember, this is not the time for you to be bashful, or
concerned about offending the care provider's feelings by asking direct questions.
Professional elder care providers are accustomed to discussing the difficulties
elders face, and should be willing to provide you with thorough and concise answers
to all of your questions about the services they offer to their residents. During
this meeting, materials should be provided to you regarding fees, policies
and enrollment. This is also the time to ask for a list of references you may
During this important visit to the facility, there are a number
of things you should ascertain. We advise bringing a notebook along, so that
you can make note of specific things at each care elder home you visit. By
taking notes during the visit, you will have something to look over later and compare
with your impressions of the other facilities you tour. There are currently well
over 100 residential care homes in Sonoma County, and your decision may
be based on a number of things including convenience of location, the appeal of
the home and grounds, or types of medical or special services provided. By all means,
if the elder person is able to give a preference, his or her comfort should
be your top priority. However your final decision is reached, the following things
are what you should take special note of on your visit to each facility:
Living quarters and communal space
Whether the facility you are visiting offers apartments, private rooms or semi
private quarters to their residents, a careful inspection of these areas are necessary.
Are the beds comfortable? Is the temperature in the room comfortable? Does the air
smell fresh? Is the ventilation good? Take note of whether a button is provided
at bedside for contacting the staff in case of emergency. Inspect the bathroom. Is
it clean? Does it seem easy to get around in? As with the bedroom, is there a button
by the toilet in case help is needed? Ask how the resident would notify the staff
if he/she needed assistance.
If communal social areas are part of the facility, examine them for cleanliness
and comfort. Are other residents making use of the social rooms? Do they look as
though they feel at home there? View all of the rooms that are made available for
residents' use including dining room, kitchen, etc.
Just as you would if you were looking to purchase a house, be sure to view the grounds.
This is a good time to ask about the time the residents spend getting fresh air
and exercise, if appropriate. If your loved one is disabled physically, how often
will he or she receive assistance each day to go outside for fresh air and sunshine?
Ask what the facility's policy is on indoor/outdoor time. Are residents with Dementia
allowed outside alone? If so, are the grounds secure, or could the resident accidentally
leave the grounds and find themselves in a dangerous situation? What types of outdoor
supervision are provided? Note whether the grounds look well maintained, or seem to
have safety hazards that residents might trip on, such as broken pavement.
Be sure, while outside, to take a look at the structure
of the facility. Does the roof look in good repair? Are there signs of exterior
water damage from flooding, if the facility is located near a creek? Overall, does
the facility give you a feeling of being well-maintained and comfortable? If your loved
one is able to give an opinion, how do they feel about the facility?
Ask for a list of the facility's complete basic services provided to all residents
such as housekeeping, laundry, linen, meal preparation, help with bathing and personal
grooming, supervision of medicines, etc. Ask about times of sickness, such as when
a resident catches a cold or flu? Is bedside service provided? What about transportation
to doctor's appointments? What is done in case of an accident or serious change in
the resident's health? Which hospital would the resident be taken to? How quickly would
you be notified?
Ask, too, about additional services provided such as flower delivery, cable TV
or Internet services, magazine subscriptions, etc. Make note of everything the
facility provides for the comfort and enjoyment of the residents.
Because nutrition is such an important issue, it will be important for you to
view menus provided by the facility. Examine them carefully for both appeal
and nutritional value. Again, inspect the kitchen. Find out who does the cooking.
Are snacks provided in addition to the three meals a day? What is the policy on
residents having their own food? Would they be allowed to keep special foods they
purchased in the refrigerator or cabinets? What about food in the rooms? What
provisions does the facility provide for special diets their residents may need to
be on? What type of supervision is in place to see that residents are eating the
food provided? Does it seem that the food is prepared with care and thought for
the dining pleasure of the residents? Are fresh fruits and vegetables part of
the daily menu? Are ample beverages available throughout the day to prevent
dehydration? Ask to be allowed to view a prepared meal.
Find out what the visiting policy is of the facility. Nursing homes are more likely
to have set visiting hours. Residential care homes may provide preferred hours
for visits. Ask where guests may socialize with the resident and what the policies
are on taking your loved one on outings away from the facility.
It's very important that you obtain all necessary information regarding the financial
policies of the elder care homes you are considering. All fees and policies should
be documented for you in writing, so that there are no surprises. Be clear on
when payments are due, and what forms of payment are acceptable to the facility. Inquire
whether Medicare or third party insurance assistance apply.
Some elder care facilities, such as nursing homes, provide round-the-clock, licensed
medical care, but this is generally not the case in assisted-living residential
care homes. It is vital to ascertain what types of medical services, if any, are available
at each care home you visit. If nursing care is provided, is it basic or skilled?
Ask about the professional backgrounds of all care providers at the facility. Determine
their previous experience with the needs of elder people.
Be sure to ask to view their residents' bill of rights. Inquire as to how residents
are able to make their needs known, make complaints. Some residential care facilities
have an ombudsman office where residents may go to have their complaints investigated.
Does the facility you are visiting provide this?
Find out what the facility provides in terms of recreation and socialization. Is there
a schedule of planned outings you can see? What about games and crafts? Will the resident
to pursue beloved hobbies such as quilting, gardening, or building models? What provisions
will be made for their needs in this? Is television or radio provided in the rooms or
communally? What are the policies regarding this? How are birthdays and holidays observed
at the facility? Is there any outlet for the residents to interact with the larger
community through charitable, religious or educational venues? Take note of what
activities you see the residents enjoying during your visit. Is the atmosphere
pleasant and cheerful?
Ask about transportation policies for both necessary travel to medical appointments,
as well as recreational transportation. Is there a limit to how far the facility
will drive the resident? Do fees apply to mileage? Be sure you understand the policy.
It is very important that you ascertain the emergency and safety plan of any facility
you visit. The facility must have established, written guidelines and policies
regarding resident security, safety, transportation and emergency procedures. Ask to see
documentation of these plans, and documentation that the staff is regularly drilled
in the proper execution of these plans. Ask to see proof of proper insurance as
well as proof of state and city inspections finding that the facility is up to code.
Ask for photocopies of all of the above documents to take home with you.
Make a careful review of all your notes
After you have visited all of the facilities you intend to, make a careful review of
all your notes. If a spouse or other family members accompanied you on your tours,
it can be very helpful to discuss the general impression that each facility gave
you. Make a checklist of your loved one's exact needs and determine which of the
facilities meets these requirements. It is especially important, in the case of
those with degenerative illnesses to understand at what point the resident might
have to leave the facility to receive more intensive care. Be very clear about
whether the facility you are considering is staffed to meet the needs of declining health,
or whether it is intended as a dwelling for elder people who do not have degenerative
conditions. Narrow down your list to only those elder care facilities which seem
best to you.
Don't miss this last important step in the process of choosing an elder care home
in Sonoma County. Any facility you are considering should provide you with a list
of reference families you may contact who currently have, or who have had, loved
ones staying at the care home. Ask the contact person what their experience has
been with the facility, and for what duration they used their services. Ask
what the resident's experience is or was. Ask if there was ever any cause for
concern about activities or care provided by the facility. It is important to
remember that the care home is likely to have chosen reference families who
are likely to give a positive referral. Because of this, should the contact person
mention any complaints about the quality of service provided by the home, be sure
to take it seriously. You may also wish to contact the following local agency
to get a second opinion about any Sonoma County elder care facility or nursing home you may
Sonoma County Area Agency on Aging
2250 North Point Parkway
P.O. Box 4959, CA 95402
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
We understand that for the families of elder people, the decision may be one of the
most difficult they have ever made in their lives. By completing the above process
step by step with care, by taking tours and making notes, and by checking references,
you will be doing all that you can to ascertain the good or bad qualities of any
facility you are considering. After you have narrowed your options down to the
residential care home or nursing home of your choice, you will be able to contact
the facility for enrollment forms to secure a place for your loved one.