Quick Tips for Choosing the Best Senior Care Provider
by Michelle Seitzer of SeniorsforLiving.com
Coffee or tea, heels or flats, cash or credit: we’re making decisions all the time, from the simple to the complex. Assisted living or home care? That’s one of the tougher choices families of seniors are facing.
How much will it cost, where is the community located, how soon is a caregiver or a bed available -- all of these factors and more will influence the final decision. However, you shouldn’t choose a home care agency or an assisted living community simply for the price, especially since the decision to bring in a home care provider is of greater significance than choosing heels over flats.
Typically, you’ll feel better about any decision if you’ve first been well-informed about your options. Consider the following tips for touring a senior care community (assisted living, a nursing home, independent living):
Tip #1: Visit at different hours of the day -- and more than once. The team that’s on from 9-5 might be wonderful, but your loved one will be there 24-7. Make sure there’s adequate care coverage all day and all night, weekends and weekdays alike.
Tip #2: Talk to residents and staff. Are they friendly? Respectful? Approachable? Do they speak positively about the community?
Tip #3: Have a meal there. This is a great way to evaluate not only the taste and freshness of the food, but the atmosphere and service in the dining room, a place where your loved one will spend three or more hours a day.
Tip #4: Participate in an activity. Bingo, trivia, art class, wood shop: whatever it is, ask to join in. Doing so provides a great opportunity to converse with other residents.
Tip #5: Ask lots of questions. The only dumb question is an unasked one. (Later in the post, you’ll find a list of important questions to ask. Bring it along.)
Tip #6: Keep an open mind. Like the elusive Mr. or Mrs. Right, finding the perfect community or home care provider might feel like a lost cause. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do your absolute best to find a good fit, but don’t be hyper critical about the color of the carpet. If the big things (the quality of care and service) line up, it’s OK to let some of the lesser things go.
Tip #7: Tour with all senses engaged. Don’t underestimate the power of your five senses when making this decision. The smell of a place speaks to the quality of care. What you hear -- the buzz of activity or the caring voice of a staff member -- is worth considering. Is the place clean? Touch, see, take it all in. This may be the place where your loved one spends the next few years; don’t rush the decision.
Questions to Ask a Care Provider (either in person or over the phone):
- Is the facility or agency accredited? By whom?
- How is it licensed/regulated/certified? What state department is responsible for doing so?
- Is the assisted living provider or home care agency financially secure? Is there sufficient revenue to maintain all operating expenses?
- Is there an entrance fee/is it refundable? What is the monthly charge?
- Who handles maintenance/repairs to the assisted living apartment/room?
- What services (healthcare, social, dietary, personal care, laundry/housekeeping, etc.) are included in the monthly fee, and what is charged a la carte?
- Can residents keep their current physician/choose their own?
- What are the staffing levels (how many per shift, resident-to-staff ratio, evening and weekend coverage, etc.) and what qualifications/training are required of the facility’s personnel?
- If more care is needed, who decides what that level of care should be/what services are required/recommended?
- Do residents have the right to appeal? What are the grounds for eviction at the facility?
Ready to consider communities or care providers in your area? You can search listings for free via SeniorsforLiving.com.
©2013 Michelle Seitzer. All rights reserved.
No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without the advance written permission of the author.
Michelle Seitzer spent 10 years filling various roles at in Pennsylvania and Maryland, then worked as a public policy coordinator for the PA Alzheimer’s Association before settling down as a full-time freelance writer. Seitzer also served as a long-distance caregiver for her beloved grandfather, who died of complications from Alzheimer’s in 2009. She has blogged for , which provides information on assisted living, home care, and Alzheimer’s care, since November 2008, and is the co-moderator of the first on Twitter, held on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. EST. Follow her on and .