When choosing a skilled nursing facility, don’t overlook the staff

By Hayley Robb, Building Kentucky

Choosing a skilled nursing facility for yourself or a loved one can be daunting. There are so many factors to consider – location, the type of care needed and financial issues like cost and insurance.

But one factor you shouldn’t overlook is more basic than any of that: Is the staff happy and engaged?

A happy staff makes a difference

Working in a skilled nursing facility is hard, demanding work – nothing can change that. But when the staff feels supported by management and empowered to solve problems, they can be more engaged at their jobs.

Basic physical care should be a given. But you want people who will also go the extra mile to make sure residents feel cared for and connected.  When staff members feel supported and appreciated at work, it makes it easier for them to do extra things like help arrange a video call, coordinate a special game or activity, or take the time to ask a resident about their favorite TV show or sport.

Of course, it’s hard to judge from the outside what the working environment is really like. But there are signs to look for. Pioneer Trace Healthcare & Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility located in Flemingsburg, Kentucky, provides the following tips to ensure your workplace is happy and well.

Signs that the staff is happy and engaged

When touring a facility, don’t just talk to the person leading the tour – say hello to staff members you encounter. Here’s some questions to ask:

  • How long have you been here? Some turnover is normal – it’s hard work and not for everyone. But there should be a few people who have been there at least two or three years. Pioneer Trace has employees who have been there as long as 20 years!
  • Do you have any family members who work here? You know it’s a good place to work if staff members are recruiting their family members into open jobs. Pioneer Trace has many family members working together to help build camaraderie and support.
  • Do any of the staff members have family members who are residents? Having staff members with family at the skilled nursing facility is a sign the employees believe in the work that’s being done and should always be supported. Many Pioneer Trace employees have had family members living there which has created even more trust in the building.

Community support indicates a good environment

When considering a senior living or assisted living facility, you should also ask around the community and review the facility’s Facebook page. Things to look for:

1. Evidence of community support. Thriving facilities with engaged staff have connections in the community. Businesses may be sponsoring ice cream socials for residents or churches may be organizing sing-a-longs. Of course, during the pandemic outside support had to change, but engaged staff and communities still found ways to show support.

2. Smiles and laughter. Yes, the staff is working, but they are also creating a home for their residents. They shouldn’t be all business all the time. Look for evidence that there are smiles, laughter and joy too.

Make a choice you feel good about

Choosing a nursing home, rehabilitation center or senior living facility is not a life milestone people usually look forward to. It’s a big decision and many people don’t feel prepared to evaluate different facilities.

At its base though, you are choosing not a building and not even specialized equipment, instead, you are choosing the people who will help you or your loved one in a new phase of life. Look for people who are excited about the opportunity to help you – that may be the place your loved one should call home.

For more information on Pioneer Trace, visit pioneertrace.com.

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