Nursing homes have come a long way. Instead of merely offering caretaking and medical services, many of them now focus on improving quality of life for their residents. Here are 5 ways to tell whether a nursing home is good or truly great.

1) Environment. A great nursing home will provide bright, welcoming spaces for residents. Look for lots of windows that let in natural light and outdoor views. Are there comfortable furniture, personalized temperature and air flow controls in each room, attractive color choices and adequate public spaces to receive visitors? Is there room to maneuver wheelchairs and other mobility devices easily?

2) Cleanliness. Look for clean bathrooms, emptied wastebaskets, de-cluttered surfaces and promptly-cleared food trays. Are resident clothes and linens are freshly laundered and hung/folded? Are floors, counters and equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected?

3) Food. Research tells us that food plays a major role in emotional wellbeing. A great nursing home will serve healthy, flavorful food and give residents meaningful choices about what they eat and when. Residents will be allowed to have their own snacks and treats available, as medically appropriate. Residents will have food and beverages available to them outside of scheduled mealtimes. Special diets will be accommodated.

4) Social Interaction. Isolation is an enemy to wellbeing. Look for a varied schedule of activities including outings to the community. Does the facility have relationships with local schools or other children's programming? Are there pets at the facility to encourage interaction? Are residents permitted to have live plants in their rooms? A great nursing home will help residents connect as much as they can with other people and living things.

5) Autonomy. Many nursing home patients can still do some things for themselves. A great nursing home nurtures each resident's independence, whether through physical activity, personalized scheduling or supportive services. Staff will encourage residents to do as much as they can, and will cooperate with them to maximize their capacity for self-care.

Finding a great nursing home takes time and attention. Using these 5 criteria will simplify and speed up the process.

For more information, see Arroyo Gardens Independent.

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