Choosing a long-term care facility is a big decision. It requires you to make important choices about where you will live, who will be providing your healthcare and assisting you with daily living tasks, how much you will pay for these services, who will be your neighbors and so much more.
No matter what type of long-term care facility you're looking for, there are five basic steps that apply. Use these five steps as your guide as you research your options.
1. Research the Service History.
Does the facility have a good track record of providing care and generally supporting its residents? Are the staff members properly trained in the appropriate areas? Are their certifications current? Have there been any complaints lodged against the facility? Were those complaints recent, and were they issues to be concerned about (e.g., safety issues)?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) can help you determine whether any complaints have been filed against an assisted living facility, and whether they have been resolved. If you are considering a nursing home, visit Nursing Home Compare to see how the facility scored on its most recent inspection. For continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), follow the same research processes. And for all types of long-term care facilities, your local long-term care ombudsman is an excellent resource for more information about specific facilities.
2. Visit the Long-term Care Facility in Person.
Is the facility in a good location? Is the neighborhood safe? Is it in a location that is convenient for family members and loved ones to visit? Is the facility clean? Are there any unpleasant odors lingering? Is the layout conducive to getting around if mobility is an issue? For more, see our checklists for visiting a long-term care facility.
3. Talk to Current Residents and Their Family Members.
No one knows what it's like to live at a long-term care facility better than current residents and their family members. Ask them if they're happy there. Is there anything they would change? Do they have any complaints or problems that have not been resolved, or any problems with staff members? If you can, try to ask these questions away from staff members so that the residents and their families feel free to give candid answers.
4. Meet with Staff Members.
Do staff members seem to get along with one another? Do they seem to have a good camaraderie with the current residents? Is it evident that they enjoy working there? Or do they seem stressed, rushed, unfriendly or ignorant? If any of the latter is true, try to determine why this is. Communicate any concerns to the long-term care facility administrator so he or she can address them.
If the facility is chronically understaffed or has a high rate of turnover, then your loved one's care could suffer as a result. It's worth having a conversation before taking the plunge and moving in or writing the facility off your list.
5. Ask Lots of Questions!
Before you visit the long-term care facility, when you're there in person, and afterward when you follow up, ask as many questions as you can. If you forget to ask a question and knowing the answer is important to you, don't hesitate to call back and ask. Choosing the right long-term care facility for your unique needs is a significant decision, and one that warrants feeling "right" about.
Find Long-term Care Facilities
Our comprehensive online directory can help you find the right long-term care facility for your loved one, whether they are looking for assisted living, care homes, continuing care, home care, independent living, memory care, nursing homes or retirement communities.
Written by senior housing writer Nikki Jong.