ORLANDO. (KFSN) -- It's not an easy decision, but it's one that more than a million families make every year: the decision to put your loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility. You want the best and most loving care for them, but how do you know that's what they'll get? Here's an aging expert who said there's one thing that will tell you everything you need to know about the place.
"Assisted living facilities and nursing homes can't hide anything from you because the relationships are all right there in front of you," said Bill Thomas, MD, a geriatrician and aging expert.
When it comes to picking a nursing home Thomas said it doesn't matter how new the carpet or how expensive the drapes, the only thing that matters is the relationship between the head administrator and the people who live and work there.
"An administrator just walked by an elder and didn't say 'Hello, how are you?' and didn't know their name, done! Turn around and walk out. That's not a good place you want to be," detailed Thomas.
Warmth, affection and chemistry are things you can't fake, Thomas said. The way the staff treats each other is a sign of how they'll treat your loved one.
Thomas told Ivanhoe, "You really want to be in a place where that administrator can't go five feet without stopping and talking and how you doing! That's what you want."
Other tips according to the AARP include asking the staff how often they work over time or double-shifts because that's a sign of short staffing which can affect patient care. While some funky odors can't be avoided, a strong smell of stale urine often means the place isn't cleaned properly.
Medicare.gov also offers a nursing home compare feature where you can view facility characteristics, inspection reports, staffing level, and quality measure information.
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Bill Thomas, MD
Choosing a Nursing Home: The One Thing to Know