Health care facilities: Finding the right place


Choose a health care facility where the staff is helpful and engaged.

There may come a time to suggest that a relative or other loved one consider moving  into housing for seniors, such as an independent retirement facility, assisted living or a nursing home. These difficult conversations can come when a family is in crisis or stressed due to the loved one’s condition. In a perfect world, we would have those conversations early, long before the crisis point. But for a variety of reasons, that often is not the case.

It’s best to do some homework to find the right place for your loved one. First, know the differences in the types of facilities available and the services they offer. While some states use different terminology, most facilities are of three types:

  • Nursing homes provide skilled nursing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Assisted living facilities offer assistance with some activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grooming, bathing, meal preparation and taking medications.
  • Independent retirement homes are senior living apartments, condominiums or cottages, often with an alert system to let a main desk know if there is a problem in the resident’s home.

Typically, states inspect and license nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When doing your homework, ask for a copy of the state inspection. Any reputable facility should be glad to share this.

A good resource for researching nursing homes is Medicare’s website. It has a nursing home locator and uses a star rating system to give an idea of the quality of a facility.

No one specific website helps in finding assisted living or independent retirement facilities. One place to start is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, which offers an Eldercare Locator to connect you to services in your community. The AOA’s Administration on Community Living offers a checklist of things to look for in an assisted living facility.

Once you have identified some facilities, a tour is an absolute must. On the tour, take note of the general cleanliness of the facility. Also, meet the staff and get a sense for the general “vibe.” Is the staff helpful and engaged? Are there activities to stimulate thought and expression?

Although moving  into an elder care facility can be a difficult decision for the individual, and a stressful time for a family, taking advantage of  the many resources available to help in doing the research may aid in finding that right “fit.”

For insurance advice for seniors or for any stage of life, contact your local independent agent.

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2 Responses to “Health care facilities: Finding the right place”

  1. John Shedd

    Amen Steve! Several years ago my family looked for an independent living facility in the Washington, DC area for our sister. We did a little bit of homework using the sources you mention, but the real litmus test was the tour of each facility. We toured at least a dozen. Some weeded themselves out immediately, others included “staged” tours that were transparent. By about the fifth or sixth tour it was pretty easy to figure out what was staged and what was real.

    The other lesson we learned was that we needed a clear understanding of what our sister was looking for in a living facility. It was just as important to have an honest conversation with her as it was to meet with various AL people.

    Thanks for your comments. Very helpful.

  2. Adrienne

    You simply MUST do your research when choosing a healthcare facility for your loved one. Be sure to read about any and all complaints that have been made about any facilities you’re considering. Try dropping by unannounced as well, to see how everything seems to be running without knowing you’ll be stopping in.

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