Finding the right elder caregiver is a daunting process. Not only are you picking out a new home for yourself or a loved one, you're also entrusting your loved one's wellbeing to a group of relative strangers. How do you know if you're making the best decision? Here are five elements to consider as you're going through the process:
1. Type of Care: Make sure you're honest with yourself about the type of care you or your loved one needs. If they need help with daily personal care tasks like dressing or preparing meals, they don't belong in an independent living setting. If they'll need medical attention, you should be looking for a nursing home and not an assisted living center, which sees to personal care. Many elder care facilities, both assisted living and nursing homes, now have dedicated areas for dementia patients.
2. Safety: Both nursing homes and assisted living facilities should be accommodating to elder care. Look for railings in hallways, grab bars in bathrooms, and emergency call buttons in patient rooms. Inquire into the facility's process for handling emergencies, and make sure a staff member is available 24 hours a day. If you're looking for Alzheimer's care, the facility should have measures in place to prevent wandering, a common symptom of the disease.
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3. Staff: You should feel very comfortable with the staff of the center you choose, given that these are the people who will be caring for your loved one. Look for staff members who greet you upon entering the facility, know residents' names, and are professionally dressed. Basically, you want to see people who are genuinely interested in being elder caregivers, and aren't just there between other jobs.
4. Cost: If this isn't already foremost in your mind, it soon will be. Elder care is expensive, so you want to be sure that the facilities you're considering will work for your budget. If you'll be covering nursing home costs with Medicaid (Medicaid doesn't cover assisted living), you need to be sure that the facility has open Medicaid beds. If you're using long-term care insurance, look for a facility whose daily cost of care most closely matches your coverage.
5. Amenities: Of course you want your loved one to be as happy as possible in their new home. Seeing to their basic needs is one thing, but you also want to investigate the amenities a center offers. What are common areas like? Are they available, attractive, and in-use during your visit? Pick up an activity calendar and ask around about participation rates. Does the facility provide transportation? Is it located in an area conducive for walking?