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Site Visits to Long Term Care Facilities

Copyright © 2014 AARP. All rights reserved.

The options for long-term care are varied and sometimes complicated. The good news is that a lot of information about your options is available from many different sources. The bad news is that the information is often incomplete or inaccurate, driven by marketing agendas, and hard to apply to your particular situation.

With some judicious selection, however, you can find reliable sources of basic information to get started. Then you can narrow your search to the sources most likely to be helpful. Even then, you need to double check the information to make sure you have accurate facts and figures. All this research can be a lot of work, so ask a friend or family member to help you with this process.

In your research, finding out what's not included is just as important as learning what is included. Don't take anything for granted; ask and document the answers.

One of the most important decisions to make in your long-term care plan is where to live. And, the real test of whether all the information you have collected meets your needs can only come from your direct experience. Websites, brochures, phone calls, and interviews set the stage by giving you basic information about costs, eligibility, services, and the like.

But when it comes to deciding whether to stay where you or your parent are and make accommodations to fit your changing needs or to move to another setting, only a site visit will give you that final piece of information.

  • When you visit a facility, ask questions — lots of them. Write down the answers and the name of the person who gave them to you. Whatever your specific questions, try to adopt the attitude of being an interested but not convinced consumer.

  • In addition to asking questions, be a good observer. If you are looking at a facility, try to get an overall impression of the place. Borrowing a term from real estate jargon, does the place have curb appeal — that is, is it attractive from the outside?

    This doesn't mean luxurious or showy. Facilities have personalities, just like people, and you can often get a sense of whether that personality is warm and welcoming just from the way you feel when you enter it.

  • Focus on individual elements such as the type of accommodation for mobility or low vision, how residents and staff interact, and the noise level both inside and out. Could you see yourself (or your parent) in this place? If so, what appeals to you about it? If not, what bothers you? It is important to speak to current residents and staff to get a true picture of what your experience at the facility might be like. Try not to make snap judgments, but also trust your instincts.

Don't be swayed by one person's opinion. Listen to all the pros and cons, and then make your decision with your family based on all the evidence and your own evaluation.

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