Nobody likes to talk about long-term care facilities but at some point, our loved ones will probably need help—and we will too. Maybe you’ve reached a point where a long-term care facility is the next step, and after putting it off as long as you could, you’re now looking for help on how to choose a long-term care facility—for you or a loved one.
Is In-Home Care an Option Instead?
Before you decide that long-term care facility is the only option, have you considered in-home care? If your loved one is recovering from an illness or needs primary care and help, in-home care is available and covered by Medicare. Also covered by Medicare is in-home hospice care should your loved one reach that point.
The benefit of in-home care includes cost, preserving the person’s dignity, and allowing them to keep some sense of freedom that they may not feel in a facility. You can also look at community services like adult day care, meal delivery, and classes and programs that provide respite to you or whoever is caring for the person.
Bottom line: You don’t have to go from caring for the person on your own to a long-term care facility. There are steps in between.
How to Choose a Long-Term Care Facility
Now that you’ve determined that a facility is best for the person, how do you choose? There are plenty of horror stories of seniors being mistreated so picking one requires careful consideration:
Seems like an obvious question but not so fast. You might walk in and see a beautiful facility full of modern lighting, waterfalls, and gorgeous decor but that doesn’t mean it’s clean.
As part of the tour, look closely at the resident’s rooms and common areas. Are those clean? Even more important, are the residents clean and well-groomed? If residents are still in their pajamas in the middle of the afternoon, that’s a potential red flag.
Let your nose be your guide. If the facility doesn’t smell right, that should be cause for concern.
Quality of the Staff
Ask for information on the management staff and caregivers—their schooling and experience—and ask for references, and check them.
Speaking of staff, what is the ratio of residents to staff? Even the best caregivers will provide inadequate care if they’re responsible for too many residents.
Is the staff smiling? Did they say hello as you walked by? Are they treating residents and other staff with respect? Working in a long-term care facility is challenging, and not everybody is a fit for that type of career. The management should see it as a priority to hire people who are wired to love their patients even on the days when the job is extra challenging.
On-Site Medical Personnel
Presumably, your loved one is entering a long-term care facility because they have medical issues. Is there a registered nurse on site at all times? If not, how often? The more serious the needs of the residents, the more often a medical professional should be on site.
Activities for Residents
As you walk around, you should see signs that list the day’s activities, and depending on the time of day, you should see activities taking place.
Does it look like a hospital or an apartment complex? Can residents bring their own furniture and other belongings to make it feel like home? Is the layout simple to navigate, especially for residents with memory difficulties? Is it secure enough to prevent patients from wandering off? You’re not looking for a prison, but you want to feel confident that your loved one is safe.
Interview the Patients
Who better to ask than the patients?
Ask them if:
- They like living there,
- The staff treats them well,
- They have plenty of options to stay busy,
- They are learning, and
- They can go off-site to religious services, the mall, and other community activities.
Ask more than one patient since one opinion never tells the full story.
Realistically, the cost will be the first consideration because regular insurance, including Medicare, won’t cover long-term care. Plan to spend at least $4,000 per month and higher if the loved one’s needs advanced medical care. This is why long-term care insurance earlier in life is worth considering.