Elder Law

Checklist: Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Choices

Acting on the realization that your aging parent or loved one can't live alone anymore can be among the hardest life events you'll face. Finding and choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility means choosing a new lifestyle, and big decisions on finances and health. Keep the following factors in mind as you begin your search.

  • Determine Medicare and Medicaid certification status. Certification status can help you assess quality and nature of care, and is critical if Medicare or Medicaid is needed to pay the bills
  • Use certification and review data to help develop a picture of what your loved one can expect from a facility. Try the Nursing Home Compare tool on the Medicare Nursing Home Compare Web site. Try state resources as well
  • Think about location. Proximity of a facility to a resident's family and friends makes a big difference in how often she'll have visitors. More visits mean more chances to see how a resident is doing, and to make sure her needs are met
  • Levels of care provided. Think about the range of services and amenities your loved one might need. Some providers are continuing care retirement communities, serving all from retirees in independent living apartments to hospice care
  • Cost of care and items included. Consider the levels of care that might be needed, and the source of funds - personal funds, nursing home insurance, Medicare and Medicaid or a combination of these sources
  • Staff qualification. Find out about certifications held by staff members, staff ratios and other employment data. You're likely to find several types of nursing staff at a facility. Ask about level and frequency of background checks. Find out about employee turnover
  • Medical care. Does the facility have visiting physicians, and do many residents use the same physician? Can a resident keep her usual physician? Is transportation to medical providers offered?
  • Facility amenities and meal services. Consider everything from security and cleanliness to décor, meal times and menus. Don't forget about services such as Internet access and cable television
  • Religious affiliation. Many providers are nonprofit corporations or are church-related. Even if a facility isn't connected with the religion your loved one practices, she might find that church-connected facility is a good fit
  • Community environment. Try to determine how and if the facility fosters the personal relationships of its residents - with each other and staff. Are there social activities? Dining partners? Group activities and common areas for socializing?
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