It is incredibly painful realizing that an elderly loved one would be better off in a long term senior care facility than in the hands of a trusted family member. Not only does the trusted family member often feel like a failure, but it creates an extraordinary amount of pressure to find the best available facility. In an industry plagued with regular stories of elder abuse, an uncaring bureaucracy, and expensive costs for low quality care, that is not an easy task.
If you are in this situation, there are sure to be some changes in the New Year. Here is a guide to help you find the best place for your senior loved one during this transition:
Determine What You Really Need
Your needs are going to depend a lot on what level of care your loved one requires. For example, a senior with Alzheimer’s Disease is going to require a much higher level of care than one who is mostly independent. There are three essential levels of care a facility typically provides:
- Assisted Living Facilities provide help with some of the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs); these include bathing, dressing, walking, eating, maintaining personal hygiene, and using the bathroom.
- Skilled Nursing Facilities do everything an Assisted Living Facility does along with the attention of a daily nurse that allows them to deal with patients who are bedridden or have more complex medical needs.
- Memory Care Facilities are Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facilities that are trained and equipped to deal with seniors that have Alzheimer’s Disease or other extreme forms of dementia.
Many facilities offer two or even all three levels of care within one building, which can be beneficial if you expect your loved one to progress from one stage to another. By choosing a facility they can stay in long term, you assure that they have contacts and are familiar to the staff.
Beyond the level of care your loved one needs, you should also take the family’s and your loved one’s needs into account. The family side consists largely of choosing a facility that is accessible to anyone who wants to keep in touch. The needs of your loved one will of course vary depending on his/her individual circumstances.
Assess Your Finances If your loved one does not have LTC insurance or another resource that covers the cost of their care, you will need to find a way to pay for the care. In general, you can expect to pay:
- $3,600/month for Assisted Living
- $4,700/month for Assisted Living + Memory Care
- $6,700/month for Skilled Nursing
- $8,100/month for Skilled Nursing + Memory Care
Health insurance and Medicare do not cover long-term care under any circumstance. VA assistance can help, but generally does not cover the entire bill. Medicaid rules vary from state to state, but in general they do cover long-term care once your loved one has exhausted their other assets.
Time to Start Searching
Now that you have an idea of what you will have to pay (and what you can afford), it is time to start asking around. The Internet is really not a great place to do this; instead, ask your family doctor, your nurse, and any health professionals that are in your network of contacts.
If you can afford one, possibly the single best way to ensure that your loved one gets the care they deserve is to hire a Geriatric Care Manager. Their expertise generally costs around $100/hour, but they have an extraordinary number of high-quality tools at their disposal for matching an aging person with the long term senior care that will best fit their needs.
Once you have a few places that you think might work out, visit each one on the weekend (when the administrator is least likely to be overseeing zealously). Check for:
- The smell: offensive smells are a surefire sign that the place is not as clean as you want.
- The attitudes: are the residents sociable and happy? Do the employees look like they are enjoying their jobs?
- The interaction: are the residents participating in activities voluntarily? Are the nurses set aside, behind desks, or are they in with the residents, participating?
- The ambiance: does it feel more like a hospital or a hotel? Are there pets (even fish), plants, art, and other things for the residents to enjoy?
- The security: is it sufficiently secure to keep your loved one from wandering off? If you can find a few places that have a solid reputation and feel like you want it to feel, schedule a sit-down with their administrators. From these discussions, you should be able to decide which facility is best for your senior loved one.