Finding care for an older loved one can be a daunting task. Before beginning the search and selection process, you must know what you’re looking for.
Nowadays we are in a season that represents the peak demand for all senior care communities including independent living, assisted living, long-term care (commonly known as nursing home care), and continuing care retirement communities (CCRC). Far too often, families enter the market and literally drive around looking for facilities, walk in the front door, receive a tour from a sales representative, and sometimes leave more confused than when they arrived. While this approach may seem logical, consider taking a more focused approach to finding a senior care community.
What you need to know before conducting your search is what I call the “care profile,” and it includes the following elements:
- Level of Care
a. Independent Living
b. Residential Care
c. Assisted Living
d. Home Plus
e. Long-Term Care
f. Long-Term Acute Care (LTAC)
- Type of Care
a. General Care
b. Memory Care
c. Special Care Programs for Parkinson’s, strokes, diabetes, ALS, and other specific diseases
d. Skilled Nursing and Rehab
e. Mental Healthcare
- Payment Method
a. Private Pay
d. Long-Term Care Insurance
e. VA Aid and Attendance (for veterans)
a. How far are you willing to drive for the best care?
b. Does your facility need to be located in Kansas or Missouri?
5. Personal Preferences and Needs
a. Special dietary considerations—can they meet your needs?
b. Pets—can you bring your pet?
c. Piano—is there a piano for Mom to play?
d. Veterans—are there other veterans Dad can socialize with?
e. Many other questions can fall into this category
Once you have determined the appropriate level of care, type of care, payment method, location parameters, and personal preferences and requirements, you can begin to assemble a list of senior care communities that meet your exact needs. Your list should include every single option meeting your care profile. Armed with that list, you can enter the market, tour each community, ask questions that reflect the policies, history, and operational standards of each place, and begin to narrow your search. Plan to visit your top three places more than once. Be sure to ask the same questions to see if you get the same answers, and ultimately choose the one that you feel is the best fit for your loved one.
I warn people not to put too much weight on star ratings from customer reviews or Medicare, instead, use the information you’ve gathered to make an informed decision. Expect the entire process to take 50-100 hours of your time. This is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, so take your time, be thorough, and make sure you get it right.