Finding the Best Long-Term Care for Aging Loved Ones

Tips for evaluating long-term care options

by Lawrence Fergus, DHA

Conservative estimates predict that 12 million Americans will need some form of long-term care by 2020. If ‘long-term care’ makes you think ‘retirement home,’ think again. Long-term care is any type of extended care for those with a disability (medical or non-medical) or a chronic illness. Candidates typically need help with the “Activities of Daily Living,” such as dressing, eating, bathing, using the bathroom and taking medications.

Finding the right solution for your loved one can be daunting, but the complicated process can be made easier by following a few simple tips. 

Building a “long-term care shopping list”

Before shopping for anything, you generally ask, ‘What do I need? What do I want? How much can I spend?’ Use these same questions to find the best long-term care situation.

What type and level of care does your loved one need? Considerations include their physical and mental state, type of illness or disability and if they need assistance with activities of daily living.

Next consider what your loved one wants in a living situation. Long-term care can be provided in a variety of settings including:  at home, in assisted living facilities and in nursing homes. Is home care enough? Would they like a vibrant community that offers activities to keep them engaged?

Lastly, after determining what type of environment suits the physical and emotional needs of your loved one, consider which facilities work financially for your family. Costs vary, but much like hospital care, average costs are high, starting at $200 or more a day.

Tips for Evaluating Long-Term Care Options

There are three important steps when evaluating a facility. First, check the facility’s quality indicators and licensing. Medicare- and Medicaid-supported nursing homes are required to publish quality indicators, which can be found online at CMS.gov. You also can compare nursing homes at Medicare.gov.

Next, visit the facility. Is it a place where YOU would like to live? Do you see the staff working with the residents or are they nowhere to be found? Do the residents look happy, well-fed and engaged? Talk with residents to learn what your loved one might enjoy. Find out how activities are governed; many facilities have residents on the board who determine the type and frequency of activities.

Finally, bring an objective, third party with you. If your emotions are clouding your judgment, someone who is emotionally distanced from making this decision may notice things that you don’t.

Following these steps can be even more important in Ohio where the long-term care system ranked 35th of 50 states in overall performance by AARP. Fortunately, students specializing in long-term care are influencing how these facilities are run, providing valuable feedback, and improving the overall quality of the activities. University of Phoenix Cleveland Campus reports a rise in the number of students pursuing a bachelor of science in health administration with a concentration in long-term care. With demand high, more long-term care specialists are needed.

To learn more, visit Connect Me Ohio: Ohio’s aging and disabilities resource at http://www.connectmeohio.org/. To learn more about careers and education in the health administration profession, visit http://www.phoenix.edu/colleges_divisions/natural-sciences.html.     





Lawrence Fergus is a Campus College Chair for Nursing at University of Phoenix Cleveland Campus, as well as a part-time faculty member. His forty-year career in nursing includes a variety of leadership and nursing care positions at Kaiser Permanente, Cleveland Clinic, and other Northeast Ohio healthcare organizations.  He holds a variety of health care credentials and certifications as a Registered Nurse, Certified Medical Practice Executive and Registered Respiratory Therapist.  He holds a master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Phoenix, an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, and has a doctorate in Health Care Administration from the University of Phoenix.

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