What Is The Best Facility For My Loved One?
Choosing a long term care community for or with your loved one can feel overwhelming. Every community is different, from the types of care offered to the décor.
The abundance of options can result in analysis paralysis: how can you be sure you will make the right decision for your loved one’s health?
Below, we’ve broken out a series of steps to help you determine the best course of action for your loved one’s long term care plan.
Step 1: Determine your loved one’s specific needs.
First, consider your loved one’s specific needs when it comes to care. Below are some guiding questions to help you get started (remember, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers to these questions – only what works for your situation):
- Does your loved one need medical care for a short time (e.g. therapy after a fall) or long-term for a chronic issue (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease)?
- Will your loved one need an increased level of care in the future?
- Can your loved one live on their own, or do they need/want additional assistance with daily household chores, meals, and transportation?
- What are their personal care needs? Do they need help bathing, eating, and dressing?
- Are they socially active? What kinds of activities do they enjoy?
- Does your loved one have specific religious or spiritual needs?
- How close does your loved one need to be geographically to their family, community, and current medical team?
Your loved one should be involved in the decision making process as well. Talk to them about their preferences and ask if care plans are in place, ideally before the need for long term care arises. Learn more about how to plan ahead.
Step 2: Find communities in your area that cater to your loved one’s needs.
Different types of long term care suit different needs. Common types of long term care and senior living communities include:
- Independent Living Communities: These communities are designed exclusively for older adults who can live on their own. These communities usually include an apartment or condominium-style complex with amenities like fitness centers, swimming pools, daily meals, and basic housekeeping.
- Assisted Living Communities: Residents have increased support in a home-like setting. Assisted living communities provide personal care services (like assistance bathing, cleaning and eating) in addition to social and recreational activities. Some provide or coordinate additional health care services.
- Nursing Homes: These centers provide care for individuals who need constant care, including rehabilitation or complex medical needs. Nursing homes provide more intense medical care, supervision, meals, and activities for residents.
- Skilled Nursing: Also sometimes called “post-acute care and rehabilitation centers,” these facilities help patients with complex medical and rehab needs that can’t be addressed at home or in an outpatient setting. Typically, patients’ stays are short-term—in fact, nearly two-thirds of admissions to skilled nursing centers return home after receiving rehabilitation therapy.
- Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities: These facilities provide ongoing evaluation, planning, 24-hour supervision, coordination and integration of health or rehabilitative services to help each individual with a disability function at their greatest ability in a protected residential setting.
Depending on your area, these different types of long term care options may also be offered on one campus, sometimes called “continuing care retirement communities.” These communities can help your loved one transition to different levels of care as their needs change.
For more information about the different types of long term care, check out these resources:
- What Is Long Term Care – National Institute on Aging
- When It’s Time To Leave Home – NIH
- Skilled Nursing Vs. Assisted Living
- Assisted Living Facts & Figures
- Skilled Nursing FAQ
Once you’ve identified the type of long term care that might be right for your loved one, use our Care Finder tool to find facilities in your area.
Step 3: Research payment options.
Long term care communities offer everything from health care to housing, meals, activities, transportation services and more, so the cost can be considerable. Explore your payment options, from private long term care insurance to Medicaid. Medicare does not cover long term care, but it can cover qualifying post-acute care stays in a skilled nursing center.
Check out these additional resources to learn about payment and assistance programs for long term care:
When researching facilities in your area, ask them about their fee structure and payment options. Some facilities may even help you apply for government assistance programs, like Medicaid, to ensure your loved one’s care is covered.
Step 4: Schedule tours.
Conducting research online and talking to representatives on the phone can be important in your search for a long term care community. But the best way to know if it’s right for your loved one is to visit in-person.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of prospective care communities to three options, make an appointment with each for a tour. Find out about specific services they offer and talk with current residents and staff members to get to know the environment. Go during mealtime, so you can also see and possibly sample the food.
As you tour each facility, consider this checklist of questions to help you make the best choice.
Step 5: Moving in and transitioning.
Congratulations! At this step, you’ve selected a long term care facility that works for your loved one – and now, it’s time to get ready for the move.
Check out this helpful guide on how to help a loved one move into an assisted living community as well as make the emotional transition. Many of these tips also apply to other long term care settings.
The process of selecting a long term care community for your loved one can be intimidating. With the right questions, resources, and information, you can ensure that your loved one receives the best care possible for their unique needs.