After the decision has been made to move to a retirement home, choosing the right one can be an overwhelming task for the entire family, but especially stressful for the senior(s) who is making this life transition. Knowing the right questions to ask and gathering accurate information is essential when embarking on this journey.
Talk with your loved one (or loved ones if it is a couple) first and involve them as much as possible in the decision.
Consider the cost of these facilities and gain an understanding of your loved one's financial position. Review your loved one's assets and prepare a budget to determine their affordability. Benefits such as Medicaid, other private health insurances may cover part of the care, but you should plan for it in advance, as it may take months to obtain approval. Veterans of America does offer aid and assistance benefits (including spouses of veterans). Check the VA Website to see if your loved one is eligible to receive funds:
Ask your loved one's physician for reputable and recommended facilities in the area. Research the Web and personally visit other retirement homes. Some retirement homes will cover everything needed, while others require you to pay extra for certain services, such as night care or private rooms. Your local department of Senior Services should also be able to provide a list of retirement homes.
Make an unannounced visit at the facility to gather brochures and pricing information. Is the facility clean and odor-free? Is the staff approachable and happy to see you? Remember to write down your observations immediately after leaving the facility as you will reflect back on your notes when narrowing down your list.
Create a checklist of questions for the retirement homes and review with your loved one to determine their priorities on the list. Schedule in-person appointments and personal tours with the facilities on your short list.
These questions were adapted from the checklist provided by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA). Visit alfa.org for more information and checklist questions.
Visit the "short list" facilities with your loved one, and with other family members that are involved in the decision.Review and compare all the information that you have gathered with other family members involved in the decision and rate the facilities based on your interviews and tours. Note: Respite care is an effective way of testing the facility out before making a final decision.
Prepare your loved one for the upcoming changes in their life, and reassure them of this transition as this will be a time of anxiety and uncertainty.
After a facility has been chosen and the contracts have been signed, help your loved one decorate their new room with familiar furniture, photos and belongings. This will help ease their move into a new environment and lifestyle.
Be sure to schedule time with your loved one both on and off-site to reassure them that you are still there for them even though they are in a different living arrangement. Keeping a calendar in their room is a good way of reminding them when you were there and when you will be there next. Bring your camera and capture new memories and moments to reminisce over with your loved one.
Drop by the facility in surprise fashion to make sure your loved one is receiving proper care and attention. Are they adjusting well to the change? Do they look and sound well to you (skin and eye color, responsiveness, balance, walking, appetite)? Inspect their room, bathroom (if applicable), clothing, etc. Continue to be your loved one's advocate.