With Americans living longer than ever before, they are experiencing more age-related health problems, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia than they did in earlier generations. When loved ones now lives into their 80s, 90s, and beyond and dementia sets in, it can be very difficult for the family to care for them. For many families, the best way to care for an older, frail family member is to place them in a nursing home or an assisted living facility.
But families are finding it hard to find the right residence for their loved ones. For starters, they aren’t cheap. According to Consumer Reports, “the costs is high – in 2017 the median fee for a private one-bedroom was $45,000 a year.” While some residents qualify for Medicaid, most of them pay for care out-of-pocket.
In reality, it can be very difficult for families to judge the quality of care their loved one will receive. According to a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published in January, “Older people and people with disabilities receiving Medicaid assisting living services – over 330,000 in 2014 – can be vulnerable to abuse, neglect or exploitation.”
“More than half of the 48 states providing these services couldn’t tell us the number or nature of critical incidents in assisted living facilities,” says the GAO. What’s more, the GAO says that states may not be monitoring the things people expect them to. “For example, 3 states don’t monitor unexpected or unexplained deaths.”
According to Lori Smetanka, the executive director of National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a lot of the people who go into assisted living facilities these days have high care needs. “But many of the facilities aren’t set up for high levels of care,” Smetanka says. Instead, many assisted living facilities are advertising their amenities, such as lavish grounds, delicious meals, and fun social events.
Questions to Ask
If you’re looking for an assisted living facility or a nursing home for your loved one, the key to finding the right fit is to do your research and stay vigilant once your family member becomes a resident. That said, ask these questions:
1. What kind of help does my loved one need? Does your loved one want more social interaction, or do they need quality medical care? Or, do they have memory problems that are affecting their daily life? Each facility offers a different level of care, and not all of them have memory units.
2. Are there any complaints against the facility? Our advice is to check into the facility’s background and find out if there have been any complaints. To do this, check its inspection and licensing records. A good place to start is Georgia’s Division of Aging Services. You can also check Georgia’s ombudsman.
3. Does the facility have a registered nurse on staff? If the facility does not have an RN on staff, your loved one could be sent to the ER at a local hospital more often.
Before you select a facility, it’s wise to visit it multiple times to get a feel for the residents’ quality of life. Look around, do the residents look happy? Are they smiling? You can also go during meals and on weekends, when there are less staff on hand. Ask the residents and their families directly about the facility and their experiences.