Choosing a nursing home for a loved one with dementia

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26th February 2019

Gez Ossai, Home Manager, Centre

When is the time right?

It can be one of the hardest decisions you will have to make; having to decide when it’s time for a loved one to benefit from full-time nursing care.

People living with dementia have a condition that is complex and progressive, so it maybe as the primary carer (whether you’re a spouse, family member or friend), you feel that you are struggling to cope with their needs. Physical symptoms such as issues with balance, escalating confusion, bouts of aggressive behaviour or a desire to wander may trigger the need for ongoing professional support.

Gez Ossai, home manager at Wentworth Court nursing home for residents exclusively with dementia is used to talking to spouses and family members about when to consider nursing home care.

“It’s all about recognising when the time is right for you as an individual or as a family. Most people consider it a little too late…couples especially from an older generation take their wedding vows particularly seriously and believe that ‘to death do us part and mean it, so spouses sometimes carrying on coping longer than perhaps they should and find it very difficult to seek the help they need.” says Gez.

“Ultimately the time is right when you begin to feel tired, begin to feel you can’t cope, and begin to feel socially isolated because you are doing nothing else but look after that person. You need to recognise that there are kind and experienced people like us out there who can help with the day-to-day care needs and enable you to preserve the quality, good times you have with that relative.”

Do your research but go with your gut instinct

When choosing a nursing home, a good starting point is the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website, where you can check out home rating and view reports.

“There is definitely value in doing some research,” says Gez, “but be mindful that it’s just a report based on one or two days’ assessment. Word of mouth is important, ask people you may know whose relatives currently stay in that home or have been there on respite, you’ll get a clear and honest opinion.

“I’d say to go with your gut instinct, it’s always really important that as soon as you walk through the front door, you have a feel for the home.

“I suggest that you should pop into a care home you’re interested in unannounced. That way you will see the home as it really is and you can make your own assessment of how you’re greeted, how the staff interact with each other and most importantly with the residents.

“One of the first things you might notice is the smell of the home. Are there indications that it isn’t cleaned properly? It’s an important statement that it smells neutral like a hotel or your own home, that is always encouraging.

“You’ll get an overall impression of the environment, for example is the fabric of the building well-cared for? Is there good lighting and safe spaces for residents to walk unhindered and is there an outdoor space or garden for residents to enjoy with their families?

“The people you meet are really important; are the staff welcoming and are they happy to answer your questions? You will also see if residents appear happy and you will notice the interactions with the care team. By all means ask to see written compliments and feedback from relatives.

Meeting the needs of your loved one

Suzanne Meadows has worked in a number of nursing homes and previously trained as a social worker. She now coordinates the activities team at Wentworth Court.

Suzanne Meadows, Right

“It’s important to understand if the residents will be meaningfully occupied with an activity schedule that meets their physical, sensory, cognitive, emotional and social well-being needs,” says Suzanne.

“We see at Wentworth Court the immense value of residents remaining part of the community, by getting out and about with the support of our team, and also inviting the community into our home, be that children from the local primary school, volunteer befrienders and regular coffee mornings and community events.”

It’s also important to have confidence in the team at the nursing home and that they have the requisite skills alongside a passion for delivering quality care.

“We constantly upskill our team,” adds Suzanne, “we take a whole home approach where all staff work towards care and dementia qualifications, making sure we keep up to date with the latest practice and thinking.”

Finally, make sure you go armed with some questions to help with your decision-making. “What’s your staff to resident ratio?” suggests Gez, “and what about the staff turnover? Stable staffing levels are typically a good sign.

“Make sure you know what services and support are on offer and that they will meet your loved one’s needs, be that mentally, physically or spiritually.”

Interested in finding out more about life at Wentworth Court? Give Gez and the team a call on 01242 263334 or pop by the home at Village Road, Cheltenham, GL51 0BG.

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