When your senior loved one can no longer live independently, a difficult decision must be made. Moving a senior citizen to an assisted living facility or nursing home may be the only option. Once your family has discussed the options and come to that conclusion, the hunt for the right place begins.
No one likes to think about this part, but affordability is important. It does no good to visit places that are out of reach. Start with a thorough understanding of your senior’s finances: pensions, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare benefits and any savings or home equity that have accumulated over the years. That will give you what you need to make a list of places to consider.
The move will be easier if your loved one can remain in their community. When neighbors, friends, family, physicians and church are nearby, the transition is much less painful. Ideally, the facility should be near a hospital for quick transport in case of a medical emergency. If the senior is more active, access to parks, movie theaters and senior centers will help keep that activity and level of engagement high. Without social and physical activity, depression and illness can set in.
Now you’re ready to take tours of the homes on your list. The hygiene of a facility is the most important thing. Follow your nose when you arrive. If it doesn’t smell clean, it isn’t. Make sure the floors are shining, the carpet is well-kept, the drapes aren’t full of dust and painted surfaces are clean. Notice if there are hand sanitizer dispensers on the walls and notice if the staff uses them. Check the resident rooms, rehabilitation areas and common areas for cleanliness and personal touches. Is this a place where you could live?
Talk with staff at each place you visit. If they don’t engage you with a smile and take the time to answer your questions, that’s not the right place for your loved one. Remember that these people are the ones who are there when you’re not. Don’t ignore janitors, cafeteria workers, either. They have important roles in seniors’ care, too. Speak frankly to administrators and marketing people about your concerns. They may be intent on “making the sale,” so listen to their answers and be on the lookout if they seem too aggressive or pushy.
Quality of Care
The quality of care is the hardest thing to predict, but there are several clues that will help you along. First, check with local senior agencies and ask for reviews of the facilities you’re considering. You’ll get some frank answers. Ask your loved one’s physician for recommendations. Doctors make rounds at nursing homes and assisted living facilities and can talk about them in ways you might not have considered.
Once you’ve settled on one or two places, take your loved one on the same tour. If your senior’s mental condition allows it, take their preference into consideration before making a final decision. It may be one of the last life-changing decisions they make, and doing it together will make a hard thing into a positive one.
About the Author
This article comes from Phillippa representing mha.org.uk – a charity providing care and support services for older people in Britain, with care homes in Stockport, Southampton, Glasgow, Leeds and many other locations.