Even without talking to staff, an initial visit to a geriatric facility can yield essential information about the quality of life of its residents. Obviously, cleanliness will be easy to determine. The following questions will help you gather other data:
- Do the residents notice you, respond, and/or interact with you?
- Are the residents out in the hallways and congregate areas rather than in their rooms?
- What are the residents wearing? Bedclothes or day wear?
- Is the furniture accessible for persons with range of motion difficulties or does it appear to be there in order to make a favorable impression on visitors?
- Is it quiet or is there an appropriate noise level?
- Where are the dining areas and would your family member find at least one of them inviting? How well attended is it? Are there residents there with whom your loved one might feel congenial?
- Where are the activities and do the participants seem to be enjoying them? How well attended is it?
- Are menu’s and activities clearly posted and how would your family member relate to them?
- If appropriate, are there reality orientation components, such as the date, etc, positioned where the residents can see them?
- Does the staff notice you and if so, how do they interact with you? How do they seem to interact with the residents and other visitors as well as other staff members?
- When you look out of the windows, what do you see? Is it a view your family member would enjoy seeing on a daily basis?
- What do the grounds look like? Are they accessible and usable for taking your loved one on walks outside? What about the availability of seating/areas for outdoor visits?
Time of day and type of facility (level of care) need to be taken into account. However, the answers to these questions can reveal red flags to be taken into consideration when choosing a geriatric facility.
When you visit a geriatric facility, you are a guest in the residents’ home. Their world is a small one; the facility itself may be all they experience on a daily basis. Therefore, everything that happens there takes on an increased importance. You, as a visitor, are important. If you pass a resident without acknowledging him/her, you unintentionally could be giving the message that they are not worth acknowledging. A simple nod in a resident’s direction communicates that that individual matters. And that is good medicine.