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“Finding Long Term Care – It’s a Process."
by Dean Thomas, Administrator, Apostolic Christian Skylines

When an older family member needs help with dressing, meal preparation, shopping and personal care and the needs cannot be met by family members or community services, their living situation can quickly become—or may already be—unsafe. Or there may be needs for medical attention at home that family members are simply not able to provide. In both cases, a long term care facility may be the best option.

If this is your situation, first recognize that every individual’s needs and preferences are different. A long term care facility that has been an excellent fit for a relative or friend may not be the best one today for your loved one. Finding the best match is a process that is unique for every individual. So how does the process begin?

 First, make a list

  • Make a list of three communities you would like to know more about. Base your list on word of mouth, professional recommendations, reputation in the community, prior experience, and Internet search engines. Cast a wide net.
  • As you construct your list consider facility location, a very important factor in the selection because it will dictate driving time for family members. From the perspective of your loved one, maintaining closeness to family will be important and that translates into visits. From the family member’s point of view a 45-minute drive may seem reasonable at first but over time it could well impact how often you are able to visit.
  • Call facilities you are interested in to make sure they offer the type of care your family member requires and have openings. Do not make an appointment to see the facility at this time; facility visits should be unscheduled.
  • Make a plan to visit each community on your list, ideally with another family member or trusted friend. Make a list of questions in advance.

Facility visits

Plan to arrive at mid-morning and spend at least an hour, preferably two. Ask to see the individual in charge of admissions. Your goal is to discover what life as a resident is like for them and—very important—how the individual needs and preferences of the residents factor into their care.

Throughout your visit, ask yourself:

  • What is the overall condition of what I am seeing? Is it clean and well-lit? Are there unpleasant odors?
  • Are hallways, stairs, lounges and bathrooms clean, well-lit? Are hallways free of clutter?
  • How do the long term care residents look and act?
  • Do staff members appear caring and pleasant to the residents? Do they greet them by name?

 Ask to see:

  • A resident’s room.
    Ask: Can residents decorate their room with their personal belongings? Can they bring some articles of furniture from home? Is there ample storage for clothing and personal belongings? Is there an attached bathroom or are common facilities used (Can I see them?)? What are accommodations for bathing or showering? If the room is shared, how are roommates matched?
  • The dining room.
    The dining room should be well-lit, attractive and inviting. Tables and walkways should accommodate residents using mobility aids. Are residents who look like they need help receiving it?
    Ask: Can I see the menus for this week and the past month? Is there a variety of interesting food? How much choices are there? Can I purchase a meal today and dine here with the residents?
  • An activity room.
    There should be at least one room dedicated to activities.
    Ask: What types of activities do the residents participate in? Are there clubs or other organizations for the residents?
    Observe: Are there examples of the types of activities available to residents?
  • The grounds.
    Are they pleasant, inviting and well-maintained? Are they accessible?
    Ask: What types of activities are held outside?
  • A copy of the most recent Illinois Department of Public Health inspection.
    Check to see if any serious defects have been cited by the public health department.
    Ask: Have serious issues been remedied?

Ask about:

  • Visiting hours. How generous—and flexible—are they?
  • Physician services.
    Are residents allowed to continue to use their own physician? If they do, does the facility provide transportation to visits? How often does the house physician visit? How are house physician costs handled?
  • Dental services.
    Does a dentist visit the facility? If so, how are costs handled? Are residents allowed to use their own dentist? In this case does the facility provide transportation to appointments?
  • Hospitalization.
    Does the facility have an arrangement with a local hospital for emergency services?
  • Nursing services.
    Is there a nurse on duty 24/7?
  • Grooming.
    Are barber and beauticians services available?
  • Rehabilitation.
    Does the facility offer rehabilitation services on premise? Who provides the services? How are costs handled?
    Observe: Rehabilitation facilities. Does the facility appear organized and clean? How many therapists are present?
  • Activities program.
    Is there a posted activities schedule? Are a variety of activities offered? If there is rehabilitation on premise, are there exercise programs? Are off- premise activities offered? How many of the residents participate? What are the qualifications of the activities director?
  • Social services.
    Is there a social worker on staff? What are his or her qualifications? What social services are available to the residents? To their families? Is there a way for family members to be involved in the community by volunteering or other activities? Is there a resident council? If so, how often does it meet? What sorts of issues have been raised and how were they dealt with?
  • Religious observance.
    Are religious services offered on premise? If so, how frequently are they offered? Are they nondenominational or identified with a particular denomination?

Wrapping it up

  • After your tours, discuss with your loved one and other family members your impressions and rank the communities you visited in order of preference.
  • Consider returning to the top-ranked facility for one or two more visits—ideally at mid-afternoon and during the evening meal—to round out your picture. The right facility will welcome your return.

Resources

This article lists many of the questions family members should ask when evaluating a long term care facility. The Illinois Department of Public Health offers a Nursing Home Checklist at https://tinyurl.com/nvidphlist that is a very good reference and well worth reading.

Apostolic Christian Skylines’ continuing care retirement community offers person-centered living options that range from independent living to skilled nursing care, and include long term care. For more information, call Apostolic Christian Skylines at (309) 683-2500 or send email to info@acskylines.org. Visit www.acskylines.org or Facebook.com/acskylines.

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