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Tips On Choosing A Long-Term Care Facility For A Loved One


Moving a loved one to a long-term care facility is never an easy decision to make. Finding the right facility can be even tougher, even if you’re certain about their ALTCS eligibility. You might be feeling guilty or sad, even though you know the decision is necessary. 

It’s important to remember there are many situations where a long-term care facility will be able to provide more help to a loved one than you can, and it’s really not as grim as you might imagine.

There are some wonderful facilities that provide excellent care and this post is going to help you look for the best long-term care facility for you or a loved one. 

Determine Your Needs

Before you can look for a long-term care facility you need to determine what level of care is required. Senior-care providers can provide several levels of care:

  • Assisted living: This is for people who need help in one or two activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing.
  • Skilled nursing: This is for those who need the attention of a nurse every day, who are bedridden, or have more complicated behavior issues. 
  • Memory care: This level of care is for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

You may find facilities that are able to provide varying levels of care under one roof. This is a good option for those who are just starting to need help but whose needs will progress over time. 

As well as considering the level of care, it’s also important to consider where your loved one would want to be. For example, would they prefer to be downtown or in the suburbs? Would they like to move closer to family in another city or stay where they are? Does the facility need to allow pets or accommodate special dietary needs? All these questions must be addressed before you start searching.   

Assess Your Ability to Pay

If your loved one doesn’t have long-term care insurance or other financial resources to pay for care, your options may be limited. 

Health insurance and Medicare don’t cover assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing facilities. Veterans may be able to get help paying for long-term care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, generally, Medicaid, the government program, does pay for long-term care services, although the rules vary by state.  

Start Looking

Once you’ve determined which type of facility is the best match for your loved one, you can start your search. Start by asking doctors, friends, and family for recommendations. In addition, there are resources you can turn to for help, for example:

  • Eldercare Locator: this is a US service of the US Administration on Aging. You’ll find links to Area Agencies on Aging which can provide a list of facilities and useful information about local long-term care options.
  • A Place for Mom: This is the largest senior-care advisory service in the US. As well as a directory of around 19,000 senior-care properties you’ll also find advisors who provide free assistance in finding care options. 
  • Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare tool: Use this online tool to compare skilled-nursing facilities based on the quality of care provided.
  • The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers: There is a member directory that can help you find a care manager in your area. 

Using these resources, make a list of properties that best meet your loved one’s needs and wants. Check that each facility is licensed by checking with your state’s health and human services department or Medicare.gov.  

Visit Prospective Facilities

You’ll only be able to get so far with your online research. To know whether a facility is right for your loved one requires an in-person visit. Try to inspect and compare at least three.

Make an appointment to tour the residences during the week. Take a walk around, meet the residents, have a meal, and speak with administrators. Also plan to make an impromptu visit on a weekend to see how the facility operates when the administrator isn’t there. 

There are a number of things to look for:

  • Overall cleanliness: does it meet your expectations?
  • Check for odors, particularly in common areas or from residents’ rooms.
  • What are the residents doing? Are they active in the common areas? 
  • Watch the employees: Do they seem happy and polite? Does it look like they enjoy their jobs? 
  • Observe an activity: Ask for a list of daily programs. 
  • What about the physical setup? Does it feel like a residence rather than a hospital?
  • Are there things to make the environment more interesting such as fish tanks, caged birds, pictures, potted plants, and a garden? 

There are also some questions that you’ll have to ask:

  • Can the facility meet the needs of your loved one? 
  • What is the basic monthly cost? Are there any added costs? 
  • Will there be a community fee to pay?
  • What kinds of activities are provided?
  • Are religious services held at the facility?
  • What is the ratio of caregivers to residents? Ideally, it should be no less than 1 to 15 for assisted living and 1 to 8 for memory care. 
  • Does a doctor make regular visits?
  • Is the facility licensed to provide dementia care?
  • Is there a daily routine for people with dementia? The answer should be yes. 
  • Ask the residents whether they like living there.

While the process of choosing a facility for a loved one feels overwhelming, it’s important to approach it as you would any big decision. It can make a difference in your loved one’s happiness.