It's important to understand that not all assisted living communities—and not even all nursing homes—have registered nurses or practical nurses on the staff. You may prefer to have a licensed nurse available in case you ever need more skilled medical care than a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can provide. Consider the benefits of living in a community that employs individuals with more extensive training.
CNA Care Providers
CNAs provide basic care such as helping people with bathing, grooming, and bathroom needs. They check vital signs, such as blood pressure and respiratory rate. In some states they are allowed to administer oral medication and to perform enemas.
A CNA only needs a short course of training. They work is generally intended to assist licensed nurses, just as their job title indicates.
Licensed Nurse Care Providers
In contrast, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) have a much broader scope of responsibility. For instance, they can hang IV fluids and administer those fluids, provide injections and change sterile wound dressings. Nurses have the training and skills to identify when a person is experiencing side effects from medication. They also can provide skilled care in the event of an emergency before paramedics arrive.
RNs have the expertise to make a knowledgeable assessment of the person's condition if he or she is not behaving normally or appears to be ill. They can make a comprehensive clinical evaluation of each resident who is not feeling well, and they coordinate care, such as recommending the resident see a podiatrist or an orthopedist.
LPNs typically receive at least two semesters of training. RNs have a minimum of a two-year associate degree and many have bachelor's or graduate degrees.
What to Look For in Assisted Living
If the availability of skilled nursing care is important to you, you'll want to see if you can find a nearby community with a licensed nurse on staff at all hours. That may not be possible, but you should be able to find communities with part-time nurses.
As you begin calling assisted living communities like Twin Oaks Estate for information, ask whether they have LPNs or RNs on staff and how many hours a day the nurses are there. Ask whether the nurse actually is employed by the community or whether he or she comes in occasionally as a consultant. After you do your research, you'll be able to make an informed decision about which community is the best fit for you.
When you're facing putting your loved one into a nursing home or assisted living facility, you want to make the best possible choice for your loved one. That can be difficult when you don't know much about the nursing homes in your area, or about what you should be looking for in a nursing home to begin with. It's a good idea to tour as many facilities in your area as possible to get an idea of which ones you like, but you still need to know what the signs of a good or bad nursing home are. I used to work as a kitchen assistant in long term care facilities, and I learned a lot about them during that time. I started this blog to share some of my insights into what makes a nursing home great, and how to spot problems in a facility that you're considering.