Extracting my head from the sand
Long-term care decisions are among the most difficult you will ever face, and unfortunately it’s often a “baptism by fire” situation. That was certainly the case for us; my mom had been in the hospital and I’ll never forget standing in the hallway, numb, as the OT, PT, and social worker told me she couldn’t go home. Living independently was no longer an option.
I shouldn’t have been caught off guard, but I was. Oh yes, I knew in my heart the day was coming, but I had buried my head deeply in the sand on the vast beach of denial. I didn’t know a darn thing about long-term care. Nothing.
So, with one week to find a facility and get Mom moved in, I dove in head first armed with — not much of anything. I had enlisted assistance from A Place For Mom, which helped immensely, but oh how I wish I’d had the Pat Summitt Foundation guide. This was all uncharted territory for me, and I learned as I went.
Business is business
While it would be lovely if everyone had their heart in the right place, the bottom line is – well, the bottom line. It comes down to dollars and cents, sales, and monthly numbers. All too often, the focus is on keeping the building full regardless of whether or not the facility can provide adequate care to meet the needs of potential residents.
In fact, a recent Frontline exposé on Emeritus Senior Living points out that facilities sometimes even seek out advanced dementia cases. Why? Well, those residents require a higher level of care, which equates to a higher monthly payment. And after all, it IS all about the bottom line, isn’t it? The facility may not be equipped or staffed to handle the care, but somehow that becomes secondary to filling the building.
Asking the right questions
This is why it’s so very important to know exactly what to look for – and what to ask – when you’re evaluating options. The Summitt Foundation guide is divided into five chapters:
- Dementia care options and services
- Publicly available information about quality of care
- Who to interview and what to ask
- The value of observation
- Strategies for being the best advocate you can be + list of additional resources
In addition, the e-booklet provides valuable interview guides specific to staffing, satisfaction surveys, chronic pain screening, and food service, as well as a worksheet for documenting observations. These comprehensive tools also include scoring guides and rationale to help you quantify your findings.
Eyes wide open
My nuggets of advice for families embarking on this journey:
- Don’t wait until the last minute; start early so you’re somewhat prepared when the time comes.
- Ask tons of questions and observe, observe, observe while you’re in the building.
- Make unannounced visits at various times of the day/evening.
- Talk to current residents and family members.
- Listen to your gut – it will rarely lead you astray. If your instincts tell you something doesn’t feel right, trust yourself.
- Download How to Evaluate the Quality of Residential Care for Persons With Dementia, by Sandra F. Simmons, Ph.D., John F. Schnelle, Ph.D., and Anna N. Rahman, Ph.D., and put it to good use!