By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of nursing home and care facility complaints are reported to the Minnesota Department of Health each year.

But WCCO learned only a fraction of those allegations, causing serious harm or death, are ever investigated in person.

So how can you ensure your loved one is taken care of? WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle found the questions to ask before selecting a center.

Making the decision to move your family member into a nursing home, or assisted living center, is challenging and emotional. The first step requires time and patience.

“Most importantly go around and do interviews, meet with the administration of the different care centers. Ask critical questions,” said Gilbert Acevedo, assistant commissioner for the Health Systems Bureau at the Minnesota Department of Health. “What services do you provide? How was your last inspection? Can I see a copy of your last inspection? Can we walk around? Can we talk to some of your residents and family members?”

care1 How To Choose The Right Nursing Home For Your Loved One

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Acevedo sees the good and the troubling. He suggests frequent visits to see your loved one — and paying attention to the verbal and non-verbal.

“Unknown unexplained bruises, or listening to your loved one when they’re telling you something is not quite right. Noticing the change in their mood or behavior,” Acevedo said. “When you see something wrong, go talk to administration. Often times if you start there, you will get resolution.”

Patti Cullen is CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota, a membership association for care providers that offers training and advocacy. She recommends asking about the training of the staff specific to your loved ones needs. She also calls care conferences critical.

“You need to hear from the staff and from your loved one what’s going on,” Cullen said. “If they’re health is deteriorating in those settings, which it could, what are they doing? What are they monitoring? If someone falls, and falls happen, what’s their falls prevention plan?”

Cullen calls family the best advocate. Her advice: go to the administration if something isn’t right. If it’s still not taken care of, contact the Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care.

“If you want an external person to come in and take a look at what you see that you’re unhappy about, go there,” Cullen said.

Some of the best resources are also free and offered by the state. The Senior Link-Age Line is a statewide information and assistance service.

And the Minnesota Nursing Home Report Card includes information about the 366 nursing homes in the state that are certified to participate in the Medical Assistance program.

While it’s hard to put trust in someone else, Cullen argues most facilities are going to treat your loved one with respect.

“We have a hardworking caregiving workforce that would only be working in our environment for the most part if they really care,” Cullen said. “We’re not the best paid, nor do we have the best hours, nor do we have the best job — but the heart’s there. It’s a heart job.”

There are several other online resources for families. Here’s where you can file a complaint, search for Minnesota Health Care Provider Complaints and click here for a checklist to bring along as you consider a care center.

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