How to Select Long-Term Care

Angela Hoemelle, Caregiver Assistance Network coordinator for Catholic Charities, knows that selecting a nursing home for a loved one can be stressful. She answers some of the most common questions below.

How do you know when it’s time to seek the services of a nursing home?

Several types of housing options are available for seniors, ranging from independent living to skilled nursing and all the steps in between. Short-term facilities are available for rehabilitation after a fall or illness. Long-term facilities are a permanent placement option.

Many families have a situation where their loved one cannot go home from the hospital and they have a very short time to find and make a decision about where they should go. Likewise, they may be in a rehab facility, presumably for the short term, but if the patient doesn’t recover fully, they may need to quickly find alternative living arrangements once they are discharged.

The best option is to plan ahead and not wait for the crisis to make the decision. Planning for your own long-term living situation is the best thing you can do for your loved ones who may need to make decisions for you in the future. The best time to research long-term care is now – before you actually need it.

What should you look for?

When looking at long-term care facilities, you want to think about the person who is going to live there. What kind of atmosphere would they be most comfortable in – if at all possible, they should be included in the decision making process. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is the facility close to you so you can easily visit?
  • Does the facility practice Person Centered Care Planning (care planning that honors the choices of the resident and their personal preferences)?
  • What is the food service like at the facility? Can residents eat when they are hungry, or are there only certain hours when food is available? Do those hours match the person’s preferred eating schedule?
  • Is the facility clean and the atmosphere pleasant – would you want to live there?
  • Are there activities for residents that are engaging and might interest your loved one?
  • Will the facility cater to the whole person – not just their physical needs, but their social and spiritual needs as well?
  • Does staff engage the residents – do they look like they enjoy their job?
  • Is the atmosphere home-like?
  • How does the facility handle medical needs – will they transport your loved one to doctor’s appointments?
What should you be wary of?

Listen to your gut if you see anything that appears unappealing or anyone who looks like their needs are not being met.
• Do residents look happy – are they out of their rooms?
• Is the staff attending to their needs at mealtime?
• Are residents enjoying the food?

If possible, talk with families of other residents to see what they think about the care and service their loved ones.

What are the most common obstacles?

Make sure you think about current as well as future needs of your loved one. Can the facility you’ve chosen accommodate future needs? Carefully review the fees and services offered by a facility. Will Medicare be accepted? Will Medicaid be accepted if personal funds run out? Is there a waiting list, how long is the wait? If you have to make a decision quickly, because your loved one is being discharged from a hospital or rehab facility, you may not have time to do a ton of research.

Eldercare.gov is a great website with a wealth of resources, including an ElderCare Locator to get you started. They have a downloadable guide called “Housing Options for Older Adults” that can help you decide what type of living situation is best for your loved one.

ProSeniors is a non-profit organization that is another great resource. They do not recommend specific facilities but they have a Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and can tell you if there have been any complaints against the facilities. They are also a great resource once your loved one is in a facility – they can help you work out any issues you may have.

Families can also call the Caregiver Assistance Network at Catholic Charities at (513) 869-4483 and we can help direct you to resources based on your specific needs. We also have over 16 support groups for caregivers throughout Cincinnati where you can get resource information, talk to other caregivers and get support.

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