Choosing a Long-Term Care Community for Your Loved One? Here's What to Ask

Choosing a Long-Term Care Community for Your Loved One? Here's What to Ask

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Choosing Long Term Care

All long-term care communities aren’t created equal. Which begs the question: How do you find the best fit for your loved one? Read on for a roundup of eight things to ask when choosing long-term care for your parent.

1. What levels of care are provided?

There are many different levels of senior care, including skilled nursing, personal care, long-term care and memory care. Make sure you ask questions about which levels of care are provided by a community to determine where your parent’s ongoing needs will be best met. Also, is the community licensed at each of these levels, and how are staff trained to accommodate the different levels of care?

Some communities, like Louisville’s Episcopal Church Home, are continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), meaning they’re designed to evolve with the changing needs of residents, allowing them to add additional enriched living services as necessary. If and when they can no longer care for themselves, they can shift to another level of care within the community without having to be uprooted.

2. Is there a waiting list?

There’s a shortage of long-term senior care in the US, and this problem is only expected to grow as the massive baby boomer generation reaches peak retirement age. While many communities are full, getting your loved one’s name on a waiting list can ensure that they’ll have a spot in their community of choice when they’re ready to move.

3. Are medical services provided on-site?

In the event of an emergency, will your aging loved one have access to immediate treatment? Questions like how often care providers conduct rounds, whether there’s an attending physician onsite, and about the medical staff-to-resident ratio can help you get a better sense of the availability and level of medical services. According to Kiplinger, the ratio of caregiver-to-resident should be no less than 1:15 for assisted living and 1:8 for memory care.

4. What floor plans are available?

Different people have different space requirements. For example, some people value room to entertain, while others may want a guest bedroom or office. Looking into each community’s floor plans can help you find the living arrangement that best fulfills your parent’s wants and needs.  

5. Is the community secure and well-maintained?

Is a community clean, well-maintained and cheerful, or are there visible signs of clutter and wear? Ambiance can make all the difference when it comes to the quality of life of residents. Be sure to consider the grounds and landscaping, as well.

The cleanliness of a facility isn’t just indicated by how it looks; also pay attention to how it smells. If common areas or resident rooms have offensive odors, this is a red flag.

Security is also an important aspect. Are entrances and exits secure and monitored? Do parking areas have regular patrols and are they well lit? A prospective community should have a clean record across all regulator and safety inspections.

6. What dining services are available?

Do residents eat in their rooms, or is there a community dining space? Is there a flexible meal plan with the option to order food delivery to apartments and other living spaces? Do rooms have full kitchens, if your aging loved one likes to cook?

The quality of the food is also important. Is the menu appetizing, and can you sample the cuisine? Before committing to a community, eat a meal there. Is the vibe pleasant, social and inviting?

7. What activities are available?

Look for communities with a full calendar of activities offering plenty of opportunities for enrichment and entertainment. Are the costs of participation included? If possible, observe an activity to make sure that they actually occur and that participating residents are engaged.

This is also a good opportunity to observe interactions between staff and residents. Are residents treated with respect and dignity? Do staff appear happy? Purpose-driven community members add up to a happy community.

8. Is the cost within your budget?

Long-term care communities exist at a variety of price points. Make sure you know what’s included in the monthly cost, factoring in any hidden fees. For seniors who don’t have long-term care insurance, do they have adequate financial resources?

Another aspect to consider: What happens if circumstances change and a resident is not longer able to pay? At ECH, for example, community members and their loved ones get the peace of mind of knowing that if their care needs change or if they outlive their retirement savings, they will remain in their home.

One last thing to keep in mind when considering personal care for your aging loved one? Websites are marketing materials aimed at presenting a community in its most attractive light. Be sure to arrange a tour to get the most accurate impression of a community.

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Kristin Davenport
February 21, 2019
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS in 2014 after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director with American City Business Journals. Her role at ERS has ignited her passion for making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city, and she spends time with residents as a SAIDO® Learning lead supporter. Kristin is the executive producer and co-host of the Linkage Podcast for ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex live in Lebanon, Ohio, with their two daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon, where she teaches painting and has an art studio, Indium Art.

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