About Long Term Care

A Consumer's Guide to Nursing Facilities

Assessing Your Needs

By planning ahead you can find the quality of care and quality of life that you desire in a nursing facility for yourself or your loved one. Today's nursing facilities (often referred to as nursing homes, extended care services, or health care centers) serve the young and old alike, both those who expect to recover fully as well as those in need of extended long term care services. The goal of care in a nursing facility is to help individuals meet their daily physical, social, medical, and psychological needs and to return home whenever possible. Whether you're thinking about a nursing facility for a relative, a friend, or yourself, this guide will help you make the best selection.


Four basic types of services are offered by nursing facilities:

Medical Care

Residents in nursing facilities are under the care of physicians, who visit regularly and are responsible for the residents' overall plan of care. Physicians certify the need for nursing care and may serve as a resource for information about long term care facilities in the community. When individuals enter the facility, physicians write orders for necessary medication and play a role in the development of the residents' care plan, including restorative and rehabilitative procedures, special diets, and treatments. Every nursing facility has a medical director on staff who can address medical issues and other concerns with the patient, the patient’s attending physician or family.

Nursing and Rehabilitative Care

All nursing facilities require the professional skills of a registered or licensed practical nurse. Nursing services include assessment, treatments, injections, coordination of care, and medication administration. Rehabilitative services such as post-hospital stroke, heart, or orthopedic care are available in addition to related services such as respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. Dental services, dietary consultation, laboratory, x-ray, and pharmaceutical services are also available.

Personal Care

Personal care is provided to residents who need help with various activities such as walking, getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, and eating. Certified nurse assistants provide many of these services.

Residential Care

Residential care services include general supervision, provided within a safe and secure environment, along with a variety of with a variety of programs to meet the social and spiritual needs of residents. If you believe a long term care setting may be needed, it is best to begin planning well in advance. Try to involve the prospective resident in the planning process as much as you can. If the individual has questions regarding care that you are not able to answer, be sure to ask the facility's staff. Remember, experienced, professional caregivers understand both the concerns of the resident and those of the family and are eager to help make the transition as calm and positive as possible.

Services and Ambience

When you visit a nursing facility, you will see a variety of staff specialists. The numbers and specialties of staff reflect the specific needs of the facility's residents. Caregivers are available around the clock and licensed nurses with the help of certified nursing assistants provide 24-hour care. Resident social activities are provided in all facilities. Ask what types of group activities are offered and how individual residents' needs and preferences are identified. Residents should have the opportunity to be involved in activities that provide mental, physical, and social stimulation. Some innovative examples include:
  • Using computers and e-mail to help residents keep in touch with their families and loved ones. Some facilities offer computer classes to residents to learn how to surf the Web and sharpen their skills.
  • Mentoring programs provide an opportunity for residents to interact with children from the local community. Art classes, music recitals and other activities also allow residents to interact with their fellow residents and the community in which the facility is located.
Take some time to talk with the residents. Ask them about their life in the facility. Also, try to plan a visit to the facility during mealtimes so you can observe food presentation and interaction in the dining room. Each facility has a registered dietitian who can talk to you about special dietary needs. Other specialists who may be on staff or available on a consultant basis include physical therapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychiatric personnel, social workers, pharmacists, podiatrists, and dentists. The overall management of the facility is the responsibility of the administrator. Other administrative personnel include medical records staff, personnel director, admissions director, and financial staff. Building maintenance, laundry, and housekeeping personnel are also on staff. During your visit, talk to the caregivers; many of these talented professionals are registered or licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants who have devoted their careers to caring for the elderly and the disabled. People providing services to people is what long term care is all about. For more information visit the following link: www.longtermcareliving.com (From the American Health Care Association)