MedFlight911 Air Ambulance on Choosing a Care Facility for Your Loved One
Many of the patients for whom we provide air ambulance service are moving into some form of care facility – so these are issues that are important to us, as they are to caregivers and patients themselves. Earlier this week we outlined the different types of care facilities available. Today we’ll offer some tips on choosing the best place for your loved one.
Making a list
Let’s begin at the beginning: you have determined your loved one’s needs and the most appropriate setting for meeting those needs. Now, you need to locate facilities that fit your criteria. But how do you even begin to find a facility? Look around for this information:
- Many communities publish a “Senior Housing Guide” that contains a checklist on the local facilities.
- Your local Area Agency on Aging or Alzheimer’s Association will also have lists of facilities. Although the social workers at these agencies cannot directly recommend a specific facility, they can give you feedback on their physical layout and care philosophy.
- Get recommendations from family, friends, and your physician.
- If your loved one has long-term care insurance, contact your insurance provider for a list of facilities that accept your policy.
- Keep your eyes open. You’d be surprised how many facilities you drive by without noticing.
Once you have a list of facilities that might work, it’s time to make contact. Call and ask basic questions: vacancies, number of residents, cost and method of payment, if they accept Medicaid or long-term care insurance, their recreation schedule, and ability to deal with special needs and dietary restrictions. Most of the bigger facilities will have a marketing employee whose sole purpose is selling you on their facility. If they will not return your calls or answer your questions, move on.
Visit, visit, and visit again
You may want to visit facilities by yourself, with your loved one, or with a close family member or friend. Bring someone who will support you in the process; it won’t be an easy one. Caregivers generally hate the first facility they visit; guilt and anxiety usually clouds their judgment. Pick the place furthest away to visit first. Then move closer to your home as the visits get easier. They will get easier!
As you make your visits, consider:
- Look for the facility’s license and most recent health inspection. Both should be clearly posted.
- Look at the buildings and grounds.
- Ask about staff turn-over. In the care industry turn-over is generally high. Asking at a variety of facilities will allow you to compare.
- If possible, talk with some of the residents and their family members.
- Meet with the administrator, head nurse (if applicable) and the individual in charge of daily operations. Speak with the CNAs, who will be providing the most hands-on care. Are they respectful and knowledgeable?
- Eat a meal. Eating is one of the last pleasures in life for many people. As trite as it sounds, the food needs to be good.
- Take a good look at the residents. Do their clothes match? Is their hair clean and styled? Are their nails cleaned? Are they wearing the correct dentures? This may sound odd but laundry, glasses and dentures are commonly misplaced in poorly-managed facilities.
Visit the facility once during business hours and get the “royal” treatment and tour. Then, visit the facility again on a weekend night when the administrative staff is off. This will give you an idea of how the facility runs on nights and weekends.
Weigh your needs versus your loved one’s needs
Determine what is really important in a care facility. A beautiful lobby with a crystal chandelier and a playing piano are nice features, but ultimately your loved one is there to receive care and have the best quality of life possible. Keep those two tenets in mind while visiting facilities and narrowing down your list. A longer drive for you to visit should be outweighed by the better quality of care at a facility further from your home.
Contact your local licensing agency to find any complaints filed against the facilities. Evaluate the severity and type of complaint. A complaint regarding the amount of spice used in a fajita dinner is very different than a complaint about quality of care.
Read the fine print
Obtain a copy of the contract for review. Consider discussing it with an attorney. A comprehensive contract should include:
- Your loved one’s rights and obligations and the facility’s grievance procedures
- The cost and prices for items not included in the base price
- The facility’s policy on holding a bed if your loved one is hospitalized or goes on vacation
Choose a facility
Remember that no facility can provide the one-on-one care you provided at home. That does not mean that facilities cannot provide good or even great care. Research your options. Plan ahead as good facilities often have waiting lists. Choose a place that you, your loved one and family are comfortable with and sign on the dotted line.