What to Look for in Long-Term Care for Your Loved One

As our parents and other loved ones age, there may come a time when they are no longer able to take care of themselves. Their physical health and personal safety becomes increasingly at risk, and they require individual care and support on a regular and ongoing basis. This may include such things as bathing, medication management, meal preparation and general health supervision.

For many older adults today, Long-Term Care communities – also called Traditional Nursing Care and Skilled Nursing Care centers – provide an ideal solution.

Smoothing the Transition

Marilyn Kerr, R.N. Director of Nursing for Saunders House in Wynnewood, PA, says, “The challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition can make 24-hour care and support for an older adult a necessity. While the decision to transition your loved one from home to long-term care can be a very difficult one emotionally, it is important to remember that it is being done in the best interest of their health and well-being.”

“Change can be difficult for any of us, but the good news is that most senior adults, once they have weathered the initial upheaval of transition, report better quality life in their senior living residence.’

“When considering long-term care for your loved one, it is important to have an open and honest discussion with them to emphasize your concerns about their safety, health and continued well-being. Consider their personal needs, wishes and preferences within the context of their physical, emotional and mental status, and then search for the nursing care community that can best meet their needs.”

The Increasing Importance of Social Engagement

Ms. Kerr adds, “Today, social engagement is recognized by experts as being extremely important to the overall physical health and emotional well-being of older individuals. Lack of social engagement and regular contact with others is now regarded as a leading cause for depression. Therefore, it is a very important factor to keep in mind when evaluating various options for your loved one’s care.”  

“For example, at Saunders House, we have created a community that emphasizes life enrichment programming for residents. The primary goal is to enable our residents to enjoy themselves – and each other – while maintaining their skills in social, emotional, physical, spiritual and cognitive functioning through meaningful recreational and social activities.”

Use a Recommended Checklist to Help You Choose Wisely

The better long-term care communities of today are a far cry from the drab, institutional-looking facilities of yesterday where the “aged” were placed to live out their days. Nowadays, the leading long-term care communities function as a home away from home, where social activities, wellness services, friends and events provide loved ones with quality living opportunities and enriching lifestyles.

However, it is important to know that the quality of long-term care communities can vary widely. Therefore, it is important that you take some time to consider your options and focus on the factors that are considered most important for determining quality of care and lifestyle. 

The article “Long-Term Care Facilities - What to Look For offers useful suggestions to help you choose a provider that is right for your loved one. This and other similar checklists provided by independent organizations and long-term care advocacy groups typically focus on a common set of recommendations and key criteria. For example:

  • Take a Tour – Never choose a long-term care community “sight unseen.”Arrange a formal meeting with the facilities' administration department for a formal tour of the facility. If possible, it is often a good idea to visit the center at different times of the day during the week in order to check the level of service provided.
  • First Impressions Count – Feel free to trust your first impression when you walk into the doors of a long-term care facility. Use all your senses; does the place smell pleasant, or is there an industrial or unpleasant odor in the air? Is it well-lit and pleasingly decorated? As you walk through the facility, you should get a sense that this is a home, not an institution.
  • Location – This can be an important factor to consider in terms of visits by family members and friends. Visits are an important emotional consideration for residents, which helps them feel a continuing connection with their families.
  • State Certification Survey – If a facility receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, it is inspected periodically by a state surveyor. How well did the community do in its state survey? Was it free of deficiencies? If it did have any deficiencies, have they been rectified?
  • Observe Current Residents – While assessing the community, take time to ­observe the residents. Do they seem happy and engaged? Do they appear clean, well-groomed and well cared for? Do staff members interact pleasantly, amicably and respectfully with them?
  • Quality of Care – Does the community have a Medical Director who specializes in Gerontology and a fully certified physician specializing in physical and medical rehabilitation? Do they provide 24/7 nursing care and supervision, which includes pain management, medication and wound care services? Also, are nurse's aides available to help with dressing, grooming, personal hygiene and bathing?
  • Food Service – Three meals as well as snacks should be provided to residents every day. Take note of the food quality. Is the food tasteful? Are the meals nutritious? Are accommodations made for dietary restrictions and preferences? Does a dietitian meet individually with each resident to customize a nutritional plan based on their personal tastes and needs? It is a good idea to visit the dining areas and have a meal there during mealtime?
  • A Focus on Life Enrichment – Ask about the types of activities offered to residents. Activity departments should offer more than coloring or Bingo. A well-rounded activity department will interview residents about their personal interests and preferences and offer such recreational options such as music, painting, pet therapy, movies, games, community outings, cooking classes, lectures, discussion groups and WiFi for computer use, just to name a few.
  • Access to a Full Range of Therapies – These include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and therapeutic recreation designed to restore or simply maintain residents’ strength, balance and mobility.
  • A Homelike Environment – Individuals interested in long-term care should look into private rooms and determine whether personal belongings and furnishings may be brought to the facility to make the resident's room appear homier. Today, the trend in long-term care facilities is culture change. This means that, more than ever before, choices are given to residents regarding their daily schedules.
  • Community Amenities – Are there welcoming, inviting places such as recreation areas, lounges and outdoor patios where residents can gather to participate in activities, enjoy one another’s company and be a part of the community?
  • Religious Services – Are worship services available to meet the needs of all faiths?

By following these useful recommendations, you can locate a long-term care community that will meet your loved one’s needs for a quality care and a fulfilling lifestyle, while also providing you with a sense of confidence and peace of mind.

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us. Please share your thoughts in our comments section.

Discover our Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

Located adjacent to Lankenau Hospital, Saunders House – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has a celebrated tradition of providing exceptional care and services to seniors and their families. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Saunders House offers a range of services, including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing care, restorative carememory carerespite care and specialized care for individuals with visual impairments – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing.

For more information on Saunders House, our short-term rehabilitation program and other professional services, please call us today at (610) 658-5100 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: This information should not be construed as Saunders House or Main Line Senior Care Alliance offering legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.

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