The Journey Home: Three Steps to Choosing a Long-Term Care Facility

The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that the likelihood of individuals over age 65 becoming cognitively impaired or needing some type of Long-Term Care Long-Term Care is 68%. Oftentimes, the choice of a Long-Term Care facility in which to place a loved one is made in response to an emergency situation. Whether an individual is entering a nursing home for Long-Term Care, custodial care or for rehabilitation following an injury, surgery, or illness, this process can be emotional, stressful, and frightening for that individual and for his/her family. The three steps that follow will help guide you through this difficult process and lead you to the peace of mind that comes with making the right decision.

Step #1: Do Your Research.

Choosing a Long-Term Care facility often comes during a time of emergency and stress. It is important to remember to thoroughly examine your options rather than making a decision based on convenience or need alone. Many facilities offer special care units (e.g., a unit specifically for the care of residents with Alzheimer’s disease) that may provide resources specific to your individual needs. When making this very important decision you should do the following:(a) Locate facilities close to family members and friends. This encourages frequent visits, keeps family members actively involved in the individual’s care, allows you to meet staff members who report at different times of the day, and reinforces to the staff at the facility that third parties will be frequent visitors.

(b) Schedule an official tour of each facility, then follow-up with 2 – 3 unscheduled, impromptu visits at different times of the day so you can see how the facility is run when the staff isn’t prepared for visitors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding the training or educational requirements for staff members, the daily schedule of activities, the ratio of staff to residents for each work shift, and the frequency of visits to the facility by licensed physicians to monitor the medical care of each resident. (c) Review the Department of Health (or similar government agency) and fire safety inspection survey reports of each facility, which in most states are required to be performed at least annually. Each facility is required to post such surveys in a location easily accessible by residents and visitors. The reports will include details of any citations issued against the facility by the reviewing agency, and the corrective actions taken by the facility in response to the citations.

Step #2: Be Your Own Advocate.

No one knows your family circumstances better than you and that places you in the best position to voice the needs, concerns, and wants of the individual entering the nursing home or assisted living facility. You should:

(a) Learn your legal rights. You should speak to an elder law attorney who can walk you through local laws regarding residents’ rights. (Ohio residents can refer to Ohio Revised Code §3721.13).

(b) Talk to your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The Ombudsman program helps nursing home residents by acting on the residents’ behalf to problem-solve issues regarding the residents’ care and related circumstances. Your local Ombudsman should be able to assist you in comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the various facilities and can outline whether (and how often) they have received complaints about the facilities, and if so, whether they were resolved in a timely and appropriate manner.

(c) Know your payment options. It is possible to fund Long-Term Care expenses from several resources, including Veterans, Federal, and State government benefits, private pay and Long-Term Care insurance. It is important to inquire as to which forms of payment are accepted at each facility you are researching – not all facilities will accept all of the forms mentioned above.

Step #3: Plan ahead.

The importance of planning today rather than waiting until tomorrow cannot be emphasized enough. Working with an estate planning or elder law attorney allows you to plan proactively, which allows you to maximize the benefits available to individuals who require Long-Term Care. An elder law attorney can also assist you with reactive planning in those emergency situations for which it is impossible to prepare. It is never too late to work with an elder law attorney to help preserve your assets and maximize your legal rights. There is always someone available at AlerStallings LLC to answer any of your questions. You may reach us at 614-798-9800.