Over the years, adult children move away. When they come home to visit, they often find that maybe their parents are not as independent as they once were. Traditionally, this begins the search for assisted living homes by adult children with aging parents. When it's time to get extra care for your parents, you may be forced to decide quickly.
Take the time to find out exactly what your parent needs are. That often means talking to their doctor, or if they have had a recent hospital visit and they cannot go home, also speak with their social worker, nursing staff, case manager and discharge manager. Or it may mean hiring a geriatric care manager to help coordinate the various care providers.
It can be challenging to balance quality and cost.
So unless your parents have long-term-care insurance, they may not be able to afford the ideal setting for very long. Medicare covers very little long-term care, and most people aren't eligible for Medicaid until they've spent most of their money.
But new resources can help you make the decision.
Assisted living in many cases can take the place of nursing-home care, at least in the early stages. Some assisted living facilities have continuing care, and residents can move to another wing in the same facility if they need more supervision. And people with dementia and Alzheimer's have many options for memory care.
You can go to the Eldercare Locator or a local Area Agency on Aging for help finding assisted-living facilities, but these resources don't assess the services. Review sites let you see others' experience with the facilities.
What to Look For
After you narrow the list to two to five places, visit and ask questions. And don't just talk with the marketing people; talk with the people who are providing the care.
Go completely unannounced and walk in at whatever time of day you can. See how people are treated at mealtime and how they're treated at 8 p.m.
Next, schedule a meeting with the marketing director to get more details about how the facility cares for residents. Every nursing home is required to have a care plan. What would be in the care plan for your parent? What activities would the facility offer to your parent? How are the residents' physical needs monitored?
Ask about the patient-to-staff ratio (usually recommended is a ratio of 18-20 patients per caregiving staffer). What type of specialized training do the staff have in dealing with your parent's medical condition? Ask if your parent will get any time outside the facility, especially if he or she is in a locked memory-care wing of a long-term-care facility (some have courtyards).
Ask for a list of the costs, especially for assisted living. In some facilities, you may get a set number of hours of personal care, and you may be charged extra if your parent needs more. After your visit, ask yourself: Is this a place where you would want to spend time? Is it clean? How does it smell? Are the residents showered, with clean clothes? Is the food healthy and tasty? How would your parent fit in with the other residents?
Does the staff treat the residents with respect or, better yet, like beloved grandparents?
No matter what, monitor your parent's care with the same critical eye you brought to the selection process. If the place isn't a good match, don't be afraid to move your parent to one that feels like home.
Chicago Tribune - Health