Choosing a Retirement Home or a Long Term Care Facility

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It can be overwhelming to find a safe retirement home or long term care facility. It is beneficial to plan for retirement living ahead of time to avoid financial burden. Retirement living can be expensive, so it requires financial planning and some type of support system. There is no right nor wrong process, but there are some safety measures that should be considered when choosing a retirement home or long term care facility.


It is important to learn about the background of the facility you select. Past performance can be helpful and can influence decision making. You should also ask about maximum capacity and current operating beds or vacancies. Bed operations data might benefit you in many ways because retirement facilities strive to maintain the highest census or maximum occupancy when possible. You can also review financial statement online and perform comparative analysis within the region. You can save the information to disclose during a visit and while negotiating the contract. You should avoid facilities that are struggling financially because it might be challenging for them to meet their financial obligations which will affect their operations. Patients or residents should verify health care accreditation status and review patients’ complaints by visiting the health department’s website.

Physical Environment

As a Patient Safety Specialist, I highly value psychological safety and physical safety of every patient or resident. It is important to visit multiple facilities at different time of the day. You should select the busiest time of the day to conduct one of the visits in order to identify warning signs of substandard care. In addition, staff tends to be very busy and unable to provide undivided attention to patients or residents during peak hours. My biggest advice is to conduct a quick visual inspection of the physical environment i.e architectural designs, interior designs, entry points, exits, room sizes, showers, safety measures, cleanliness, clutter, medical equipment, nursing station, medication carts, treatment carts, shredder box, type of furniture, stained ceilings, dirty bathrooms, storage spaces, floor appearance, kitchen or pantry, common space, lighting, phones, computers, monitors, hand hygiene and physical security of the building or ward. In addition, you should address psychological safety i.e emergency plan and preparedness, active shooting training, inclement weather guidelines for staff, emergency response or medical emergency management, facility management, and chaplain service.

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Staff Level

It is important to inquire about staff mix in order to identify skill level , chain of command and supervisory authority. You should ask about continuous supervision during off shift because there is less nursing staff on duty at that time. It is safe to discuss availability of independent provider to address patients’ or residents’ medical concerns. You should also ask about approved staffing and nurse to patient ratio. There should be ancillary staff to assist with care planning and other personal needs. Futhermore, you should discuss Registered Nurse representation in the multidisciplinary team to review care planning and rehab to promote motor function. Lastly, it is crucial to discuss staff training and resources available to staff.

Rehabilitation Program

Rehabilitation program includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreation therapy, music therapy, arts, mental stimulation games, speech pathology, field trips, shuttle to local stores, group exercises and many more. It is very important to choose a facility with aggressive and effective rehabilitation program with the goal to promote physical activities and strength. The examples mentioned above should enable effective decision making. Next time you decide to transition to a retirement home or long term care, contact Nurse Sophie to assist you with the process.

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Patient Safety is my priority !

Sophia Georges MSN,RN

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