How Do I Choose the Right Long-Term Care for My Parents?
It’s a sad fact: When your parents get to an age when they can’t care for themselves, you need to find a place staffed with people who can help care for them. Assisted care facilities or retirement homes are preferable, but some people need the help provided at long-term care facilities.
This leaves you with the question: How do you choose the best facility?
The best way to start is to evaluate the care they need and their financial situation, then target several facilities and visit those facilities.
‘Medically necessary’ versus ‘custodial’ care
If you believe your parents need a long-term care facility, the next step is to determine if the care they need is “medically necessary” or “custodial”. This is important because “medically necessary” care is covered by Medicare while “custodial” care is not.
Next, determine how you and your parents will finance the care. Long-term care is not cheap, and here are some of the ways you and your parents can finance the care:
- Care insurance
- Medicare and Medicaid
- Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
- VA benefits
- Accelerated death benefits
- Reverse mortgages
Once you have a handle on the care needed and the amount you can spend, you can target some care facilities. For referrals, you can talk to friends, relatives, your doctor or church members, or the AARP or the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
Things to notice at the facility
When you go to a long-term care facility, there are things you should look for:
How does the food look and taste? Keeping in mind most residents have special dietary needs, if the food is unpalatable then special needs won’t matter.
What do you hear? If the staff addresses the residents with generic names like “grandpa,’ they might not have taken the time to learn the resident’s name and therefore don’t treat them with respect. Similarly, if you see staff gossiping or talking to each other in a rude manner, your parent isn’t likely to receive good care at that facility.
How does it smell? Facilities usually don’t smell very good, but if the smell is truly bad, that might mean caregivers are ignoring bodily needs.
How much overtime does the staff work? Overtime is a sign that management won’t hire a proper number of staff members. Overtime means one thing if you’re running a restaurant or a widget factory, but if you have the care and well-being of loved ones in your hands, then proper staffing is a must.
Do residents show signs of bruising or falls? As with bad smells, bruises and falls are not uncommon because of the frailty of the residents, but bruises along the upper arm or on the face or neck are warning signs, as is if staff does not respond with care and alacrity to a fall.
Are residents outside or inside their rooms? Residents outside their rooms can interact with staff and each other. Residents stashed inside their rooms are bored and easy to handle. Experts warn of the latter.
Finding a long-term care facility for your loved ones is an emotional event. You can make better decisions if you plan ahead and keep an eye out for a few simple signs.