It’s hard – and it’s complicated. Here’s what to consider when evaluating a long-term care facility.
It can be one of the hardest decisions of all: to move a spouse, parent, or other family member into a long-term care facility. And in many provinces across the country – Alberta, Ontario, and B.C. among them – once you choose three long-term care facilities, you may be locked into those choices. So here’s what to consider when developing your list:
Look into the types of facilities. With baby boomers aging, creative approaches to aging are being developed. There are facilities that operate more like hotels – with on-staff doctors, physiotherapists, podiatrists, and other specialists – as well as facilities that have developed tools and expertise to deal with dementia and other conditions. It’s important to evaluate your loved one’s needs and then look for the best match, with a view towards future needs as well.
Consider logistics. If you are making the decision for someone who lives at a distance, do you want them closer so that you can visit, or in their familiar surroundings? Will it matter to him or her where the facility is? Will anyone be able to visit and check in with them?
Consult. Ask your loved one what he or she would prefer, if possible. You can also ask his or her permission to speak with the doctor managing his or her care to make sure you understand what kind of care is required.
Get the basics by phone. Ask about prices (this may be set provincially in some case), vacancy, and care facilities. If you are considering paying for a private room, ask how many are available.
Find out the details of life within the facility. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions – in person, over the phone, or via email. You’ll want to know what kinds of care are available and common. How often will your parents see a nurse, or a doctor? Can they continue to see their family doctors? What other staff work in the facility and what are their qualifications? How are meals handled? How does the daily routine work – how much choice will your loved one have about when to get up, snack, and so on. What activities are available? How are personal possessions handled? What about extras such as hairdressing or trips to local stores?
Ask about links to other care facilities. If the facility is not designed to handle patients with specific needs, is there a process if a move becomes necessary? What are the links to local hospitals or other medical care facilities? What about alternative treatments, such as acupuncture?
Visit in person. Taking a tour of the facility will give you a great deal of information. Take stock of all your impressions, first and otherwise. Does the facility seem safe, friendly, and clean? Do there seem to be adequate staff, and is their attitude and demeanor professional? How does it smell and sound? Is it too hot or too cold? Do the residents seem generally happy and, where they seem able, engaged with their surroundings? Trust your instincts.