Don’t Overlook Details When Seeking Seniors’ Long-Term Care
Is it time for Mom or Dad to move into a long-term care facility? Even if the day has not come, preparing is important for caregivers. Start with “window-shopping” possible senior’s facilities. Comparing these and deciding on the best new home for parent(s) can be daunting for caregivers as many options exist. Touring each property can be time-consuming, but will give you the best “feel” for what is offered. Keep your eyes open when on-site and evaluate the following:
Ask yourself, is this a suitable location for you to visit? Will it be convenient for you to take your parent on regular outings? Is the property close to your parent’s doctor’s office, a hospital, a grocery store, a pharmacy, and/or a bank? Is there a passenger loading and unloading zone located in front of the property’s front door (bonus marks if that loading zone is covered to protect you and your parent from bad weather!)? Carefully evaluate the parking – what I perceived to be a large parking lot at my father’s long-term care home filled up quickly as both visiting family members and care staff parking there. For caregivers who may not drive, is the property available by public transit?
Care home rates in Alberta begin at $49.60/day (source: Alberta Health, 2014), but can be more expensive and rates are going up, so the price tag of housing Mom or Dad can get very steep! Find out if this cost can be subsidized (based on your parent’s income) or partially covered by insurance. While many long-term senior’s homes do offer additional programs and/or services (e.g. hair or nail care, outings, further meals/snacks), be aware these “extras” often come at an “extra” price which is added to your parent’s monthly bill.
Consider the size, shape, and location of this room within the building. Will the room be shared with another resident or can your parent be independent? Don’t expect a sprawling amount of total square footage; room storage is often limited. As my Dad’s room was quite small, we got the approval for building maintenance staff to attach a shelf to his room wall to provide extra storage. We also brought in a small bookshelf and installed small wheels in its base. This way, cleaning staff could easily push the bookshelf aside to easily sweep and mop underneath it. Look out the windows—what do you see – the afternoon sun or a parking lot? Check all the windows to ensure they can be opened to allow for a fresh breeze. Glance around the room to inspect for cleanliness. Don’t just stop at the most visible areas; peer underneath resident’s beds and in closets. Smell the room air also so see if there are any foul odours.
If possible, tour senior’s long-term care homes around the residents’ mealtimes. These can be hectic times, but you can observe what is being offered for meals and how the food is prepared and served. Is the menu varied and appealing? If Mom or Dad has any menu preferences, food allergies, or diet requirements, can the facility’s kitchen accommodate these? Can you pre-sample some of the food for yourself to gauge for taste and appeal?
Number of Staff and Level of Experience:
Ideally, Mom and/or Dad’s long-term care facility should have a Registered Nurse/Licensed Practical Nurse on-duty at all times and enough care staff to handle all the residents. You will want sufficient staff to allow for an appropriate and reasonable staff to resident ratio and to ensure that your parent’s needs are not quickly skimmed over as a staffer rushes from room to room. Care staff numbers typically drop overnight but are fewer workers best for your own parent? You don’t want to see one care worker responsible for 30 residents (during the day or overnight).
Carefully consider the emergency evacuation procedure. How will residents be removed from the building, if need be? My father and other residents were on the third floor of a long-term care centre and I was assured they could be ushered down the back stairs. As the residents here were cognitively impaired (with many confined to wheelchairs), I now wonder how effectively this plan could have been carried out. On a related note, confirm the building has emergency lighting in case of a power outage and it’s always good for a facility to have fire sprinklers. Multi-level long-term care homes will often feature an elevator for the convenience of both residents and visiting caregivers. Was the elevator serviced recently and how often do these service calls occur?
As you’ll likely be touring a good number of possible long-term care homes, jot down thoughts and comments on a notepad or snap a few photos of each building (inside and outside) with your cell phone camera. When relying on your own memory, small points may be overlooked. Remember that you are representing your parents and you will need to look before leaping to avoid making a wrong decision and a potentially costly mistake.
For the names, addresses, and phone numbers of senior’s long-term care centres located throughout Alberta, please review this list supplied by Alberta Health Services: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/facilities.asp?pid=ftype&type=6