It’s human nature to want to retain our autonomy, and when asked about preferences regarding late-in-life care, elderly parents often resist the idea of moving into a care facility. Family members may wish their loved one could remain in their home, and yet have lingering worries that they may fall or have a stroke. There is no magic age for when to begin exploring facilities, although it usually becomes evident by the way an elderly parent is behaving. When you realize that a given family member is showing signs of not being able to fully function by themselves or even with the help of a spouse or friend, it’s wise to begin the search.
Joshua McMahan, a Kokomo attorney with Butcher, Lowry, McMahan & Mclelland, suggests that the first thing families should do when selecting the right senior living facility is to assess the extent of their parent’s needs. Will they require 24-hour care or is assisted living going to be sufficient? Is the person struggling cognitively or physically or are they able to function pretty well on their own?
Answering these questions helps you determine if your parent is best suited for an assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility or memory care facility.
In many cases, facilities are divided into different sections so that patients can progress from one section to another as their needs change. This enables them to remain in the same facility over time.
“If you know people who have had a loved one at a certain facility, ask about their impression of the place,” says McMahan, who warns against being seduced by a facility’s aesthetics since plush carpet, freshly painted walls and sparkling chandeliers does not equal stellar care.
“The best way to assess who provides A+ patient care is to ask people’s opinions,” McMahan says.“Word of mouth is a big deal.”
Even hopping on the internet to check quality ratings is helpful (visit IN.gov for links to that kind of thing).
Also be sure to talk cost.
“It’s important to know the cost because if you’re not going to pursue Medicaid, then there are not many options as far as how to pay for it other than out of pocket,” McMahan says. “If you’re signing up for a facility that’s going to cost you $8,000 a month, you need to know that going in.”
Asking whether a facility accepts Medicaid is vital because if that’s the route you end up taking, either right off the bat or eventually after their assets have dwindled and they are getting close to being eligible anyway, you don’t want to have to move your parent somewhere else because their current home doesn’t accept Medicaid.
McMahan notes that it’s also wise to consider location by selecting a facility that’s close to you (or whomever it will be in the family that’s going to be caring for the patient and/or visiting them frequently).
“That [proximity] can actually make up for a lot of things that a facility may be lacking because even if they don’t have the best staff or all of the amenities, the frequent visits by family lets the staff know that a certain resident will be checked on,” McMahan says. “That helps with accountability and, by default, care because they know that somebody is paying attention. Aside from the fact that being nearby makes visitation easier, from a care perspective, it’s good when staff know that people are going to be popping in.”
While it’s fine for you to gather data and opinions on your own, when it comes time to tour facilities and make a final selection, if your parent has decision-making abilities, then it’s crucial that they have a say in this next phase of their life. Doing so makes for a smoother transition.
“I have a lot of meetings with elderly parents and their adult children,” McMahan says. “When the parents feel like their children are treating them like kids, they tend to tighten up about the process. They get suspicious and stubborn about it. They don’t even want to have the conversation because of how they are being treated.”
When parents are involved to the greatest extent possible, however, they are much happier and more likely to get on board with a transition.
“It goes back to their sense of autonomy and wanting to be in charge of themselves,” McMahan says. “They want you to talk with them, not about them.”
Joshua P. McMahan is an attorney with Butcher, Ball, Lowry, McMahan & McClelland. Offices are located at 201 North Buckeye Street in Kokomo. For more information, call 765-457-1126.