Deciding where your aging parents or loved ones will spend their later years can be challenging. It involves finding a place that provides what they need, want, and can afford. To make a sound investment, you need to do your research, plan well, and make careful decisions. Here are important things to consider when looking into senior communities to find the best fit and to avoid accruing consumer debt.
How to Evaluate Senior Communities
There are three basic levels of senior care: independent living assisted living and skilled nursing. Some senior communities have one, two or all levels of care. Seniors may start out in an independent living facility, and as their needs increase, they transition between care levels. Think about whether your parents need a facility with all levels. For instance, if they already require some assistance, they won’t need a place with an independent living option.
To find nursing homes and home health services in your area, go to www.medicare.gov. Based on your zip code or city, you will find a list of facilities with an overall rating, as well as information about health inspections, staffing, quality measures, and whether the facility has had a high number of days without registered nurse staffing. Once you have facilities to consider, visit them at various times of the day to get a better idea of the experience your parent would have there.
Services offered at senior communities
Even in an assisted-living community, not all services are created equal. Consider the types of help your loved one will need, and keep in mind that needs may increase with time.
- Minimal assistance. Some of the first services seniors need include cooking and house cleaning, which may only be needed on a weekly basis.
- Daily assistance. As care levels increase, your parent may need intermittent care by a nurse or nurse aide for a short time each day. This could include help with bathing, dressing, and be administering medication.
- Full-time assistance. A senior who requires help with bathing, toileting, walking, eating, taking medication, and more on a full-time basis may need a skilled nursing facility.
Most seniors are living on a fixed income and may not realize how much health care can cost. As the level of care increases, the cost of care can go up dramatically. Costs will be different depending on where you live, the types of facilities available, the individual services needed, and your financial situation. As you evaluate different senior communities, get a list of services your parent needs now in writing. Also, keep in mind that your parent may need other services in the future. In most cases, seniors pay for medical expenses with Medicare or other insurance. Nursing home care, on the other hand, is an out-of-pocket expense. As they use their resources, seniors may eventually qualify for Medicaid.
It’s important to plan ahead for care and talk about these decisions with family sooner rather than later. So consult with a financial advisor to discuss all the financing options available to your parent, including personal payment and state and federal government programs. The National Council on Aging has a BenefitsCheckUp, which provides information on services available for seniors. Go to www.benefits.gov or call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636).
If your aging parent opts for a more independent living situation and you need help managing their care, options are available. Given that information, consider hiring someone in the community to check in on your parent or to help with chores. There are private agencies that can help with everything from medical needs and housework to providing companionship. While it would be an out-of-pocket expense, it may be more affordable than an assisted-living facility.
Navigating elder care and health care transitions is a part of the aging process. With this in mind, planning ahead can help taking care of your loved one more manageable.
Author Bio: Jean Cherry, BSN, WCC, MBA, is Manager of Clinical Programs for Walgreens, where you can find assistive devices like mobility scooters on the Walgreens website. Jean has previously served as a home health nurse and enjoys helping seniors and their families find the best care for their golden years.
Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any products, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.