The decision to place your aging loved one in a long-term care facility is never easy. No matter how necessary this move may be for his or her safety and well being, it can be emotionally hard for all those involved. Change is difficult for all of us, but change related to the aging process, can be especially so.

The move into long-term care, whether it be an assisted living or a skilled nursing facility, can raise many questions for you. In addition to emotional concerns you may have regarding the move, you may also face uncertainty when it comes to the care your loved one will receive there as well as questioning your ability to pay for this care for the long-term. You may be trying to determine, right now, what will need to be paid for out-of-pocket together with trying to identify the right facility for your family member.

We know how challenging this process can be. Research, site visits, and meeting with administrators, are just the start of the process you need to follow to find the right facility. Let us share seven key questions to ask when your are comparing skilled nursing facilities in your community to help you find the right location for your loved one, and for you as well.

1. What levels of care does this facility provide? While this begins with the type of care your loved one needs now, there should also be a look to the future. Talk to your loved one’s treating doctor and the facility to ensure that if his or her care needs change over time, they can be met in this facility.

2. What types of payment are accepted? Long-term care facilities are expensive and the costs continue to rise. It is very easy for savings to be depleted in a short amount time. Discuss with the facility now the types of payment that are accepted. 

3. How will you cover a shortfall in the payments? While you may be able to pay for care now, what will this situation look like next year, five years, or even ten years down the line? Do not wait to talk to the facility about payment structuring, as well as, a local elder law attorney about your options to obtain government benefits to help pay for care.

4. What does Medicare pay for, and what does it not cover? Most Older Americans are, unfortunately, under the assumption that Medicare will pay for long-term care. Medicare, however, will only pay for a small amount of the coverage needed after a qualifying hospital stay. Do not wait to visit Medicare and learn more about the extent of the benefits your loved one may be able to receive.

5. What will happen should your loved one be in crisis? All long-term care facilities must have a crisis plan for residents. Is there a doctor on site? An RNA? Is there a vehicle that can transport your loved one to the hospital? How close is the hospital? These are critical questions about your loved one’s care plan to ask now.

6. May treating doctors or therapists come onsite? Depending on your loved one’s needs, he or she may require specialized care. In some, but not all long-term care facilities, this may not be allowed. Discuss with the facility now what the policy is for external providers and if special exceptions may be made. If not, ask what options are available for your loved one to still receive the treatment he or she needs.

7. What safety protocols are followed and what precautions are taken? Above all, you want to ensure your loved one is in a reasonably safe environment. Ask now what the policy is for visitors, relatives, and professionals. Does the staff receive safety training? How often and what does it encompass?

These are just a few of the questions to ask when you start to interview and research long-term care facilities for your loved one. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we know it may raise more questions than it answers. Do not wait to contact us to discuss how to best provide for your loved one’s needs for long-term care. We look forward to helping you answer these questions.