Things to look for while mystery shopping at a nursing home

Use a mystery shopper to help make sure you pick out the best living environment for your loved ones.

The day you weren't looking forward to has finally arrived. One or both of your parents has reached the age that it's a good idea to seriously consider helping them find a nursing home or assisted living center where you know they'll always be safe and comfortable. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to get a real impression of what a facility is like, even if you go to visit. You never know what the staff is like until there's no one there watching how they interact with the patients living in the home. Even the conditions around the center can be vastly different from when you go there to see it personally. You'd be surprised what a difference it makes to get a glimpse of what things are like there when you aren't around.

But, how can this be accomplished without the use of a spy, ninja or other sneaky persona? Mystery shoppers of course! One of the benefits of the growing number of individuals that work as mystery shoppers is the expansion in age demographics. More and more older to elderly people are taking on the task of becoming responsible mystery shoppers. That being said, look into mystery shopper services that send their staff "undercover" so to speak, so that you can be sure you're getting the most accurate representation of the facilities you are looking at.

Look for mystery shopping services that go "undercover" to find the most accurate results.Look for mystery shopping services that go "undercover" to find the most accurate results.

Here are four things a good mystery shopper might look at in a nursing home:

Staff
Probably the most important thing to examine when choosing a nursing home for your loved one is the quality of the staff that will be providing care. Mystery shoppers can assess employees at particular places on a couple of different levels. First, they will be able to get a better idea of the training and background of the majority of the staff. It's a good idea to look at places that boast having both trained and experienced staff. Some establishments may require a nurse's degree or at least certain certifications in the health field to work there. But besides the information that can be found on any standard resume, you want to find out what the personalities and dispositions of the employees are like on a more regular basis. After all, these are the folks that will be spending the most time around your loved ones.

Living conditions
Since your loved one will be spending most of his or her time under the roof of the nursing home, you want to make sure that the living conditions are at the highest quality. Mystery shoppers will be able to better explore sleeping quarters, bathrooms and upkeep of the buildings and grounds in general. Unsanitary or unsafe conditions will be red flags for mystery shoppers to give places negative reviews. On the other hand, if a place is always well-kept and renovated often enough, mystery shoppers will give it high recommendations.

Food and beverage options
Sometimes it's easy for you to overlook things that you take for granted, but the food and drink menus at places like these are very important. Most of the time, nursing homes are responsible for feeding their patients every major meal of the day (minus snacks). Therefore, it's a good idea to make sure that the food is both healthy and tasty. It's hard for you to imagine, but your loved one will be eating from the same place day in and day out. The least you can do on their behalf is make sure the food tastes good, at the very least.

Entertainment

"A little fresh air can go a long way."

Again, you have to keep in mind that your loved one will be spending the majority of their time at whatever location you (and they) pick out. Mystery shoppers are able to get a better feel for what options are available in terms of entertainment for the residents. You want a place that has plenty of events for those living there. Bingo nights, field trips to museums and group gardening time are a few ideas for the positive types of activities you want to look out for. Also, find out what transportation is like. Some places offer supervised shuttle services to take residents to places in the area. Sometimes getting a little fresh air can go a long way in boosting morale.