Navigating the Long-Term Care Maze: Choosing Quality Care for Your Loved One

Finding quality long-term care for a loved one can be daunting but choosing the right care for your loved one is crucial. By carefully assessing their needs, exploring options, and seeking professional guidance, you can make informed decisions prioritizing their well-being and comfort in the journey ahead.

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Navigating the Long-Term Care Maze: Choosing Quality Care for Your Loved One
9 Min Read January 25th, 2024

With baby boomers swelling the ranks of seniors, the need for quality long-term care is skyrocketing. According to a recent Genworth report, over 50 million Americans, roughly 17% of the population, are projected to require long-term care by 2030. Navigating the various options, however, can leave families feeling overwhelmed and needing clarification. There are challenges in finding care and multiple types of services available. 

Various long-term care options are available, such as home care and assisted living. Adult day care can allow individuals to stay home longer by receiving care during the day and returning home at night. Memory care is specifically tailored to offer specialized support and care for individuals dealing with dementia.

Each option has its own advantages, drawbacks, and associated costs. If your loved one has a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, it can provide access to high-quality care options with fewer concerns about expenses. Otherwise, most, if not all, of the long-term care costs will need to be covered by your loved one. Health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, may cover 100 days of skilled long-term care in a facility.

Finding Quality Care Options

Finding quality care options can be challenging and place a tremendous emotional strain on the person doing the search, usually an adult son or daughter.

However, the LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory makes it easier to find quality care. The directory serves as a free and comprehensive national database comprising over 80,000 long-term care service providers, streamlining the process of locating qualified caregivers and suitable care facilities. You can search for providers where you or your loved one lives and read about their qualifications and options. 

Facing the Crossroads: In-Home Care, Assisted Living, or Nursing Homes?

In-Home Care: A Familiar Haven with Personalized Support

Most every survey suggests that most people wish to age in place, in their home. Your loved one is probably no different. While there are situations where someone wishes to move into an assisted living facility, most people start with in-home care. 

In-home caregivers offer a diverse array of personalized services to meet the care recipient's specific needs. They can vary based on the level of care required. Here are some common services offered by in-home caregivers for older adults:

  1. Personal Care Assistance: Help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting (including hygiene), and mobility assistance.
  2. Medication Management: Assisting with medication reminders, ensuring medications are taken as prescribed, and managing prescription refills.
  3. Meal Preparation: Planning and cooking nutritious meals based on dietary needs and preferences and feeding assistance if required.
  4. Companionship: Providing companionship and emotional support by engaging in conversations, social activities, and hobbies.
  5. Light Housekeeping: Performing light housekeeping chores such as cleaning, laundry, and keeping a safe and tidy living environment.
  6. Transportation: Assisting with transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, social outings, and other errands.
  7. Safety Supervision: Ensuring the safety of the home environment, fall prevention, and monitoring for any signs of distress or emergencies.
  8. Exercise and Mobility Support: Assisting with prescribed exercises and helping with mobility to prevent muscle weakness and maintain physical health.
  9. Dementia and Alzheimer's Care: Specialized care for individuals with memory-related conditions, including memory games, routines, and constant supervision if needed.
  10. Respite Care: Offers temporary relief to family caregivers, giving them a break while ensuring the older adult's needs are met.
  11. 24-Hour Care: Providing round-the-clock care for individuals who require continuous assistance and supervision.
  12. Hospice Care: End-of-life care and support for individuals with terminal illnesses emphasize comfort, pain management, and emotional support.
  13. Pet Care: Assistance with pet care tasks like feeding, walking, and ensuring the well-being of pets in the home.
  14. Cultural and Religious Sensitivity: Tailoring care to respect and accommodate an individual's cultural or religious preferences and practices.
  15. Communication with Medical Providers: Keeping track of medical appointments, communicating with doctors, and assisting with medical record organization.

Skilled nursing care, including wound care and physical, occupational, and speech therapy services, can be added depending on the care recipient's needs.

In-home caregivers collaborate closely with both the care recipient and family members, including you, to develop a customized care plan that caters to their specific needs and preferences. The goal is to enhance quality of life, promote independence, and ensure safety and well-being while living at home.

Licensed Professionals Providing Quality Care

Various licensed professionals are available to provide in-home care, including home health and personal care aides and skilled nurses. Home aides assist with daily living activities, whereas personal care aides provide basic assistance with personal care tasks. 

You can also hire registered nurses (RNs), as their nursing school degree program equips them with ample skill to provide quality nursing care and manage the care plans of your loved one.

It's important to note that while in-home care can be a valuable option for individuals requiring assistance, it's also expensive, and finding qualified and reliable caregivers can be challenging. Additionally, individuals with complex medical needs may require 24-hour care, which may not be feasible in a home setting.

Costs vary widely depending on location, level of care, and hours needed. According to the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator, the national median annual cost for home health aides providing "hands-on" or "stand-by" assistance averages $58,629 annually.

Assisted Living: Socialization and Support with a Touch of Independence

Assisted living facilities offer a more homelike setting, ideal for providing various services to seniors who need help with daily tasks but don't require the advanced care found in nursing homes. These services aim to assist your loved one in preserving their independence while offering aid in areas where they require assistance.

Here are some common services offered by assisted living facilities:

  1. Personal Care Assistance: Help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting.
  2. Medication Management: Staff can assist residents with medication reminders and administration.
  3. Meal Services: Nutritious meals are typically provided in communal dining areas, and special dietary needs can often be accommodated.
  4. Housekeeping and Laundry: Housekeeping services keep living spaces clean, and laundry services are available for residents.
  5. Social and Recreational Activities: Assisted living facilities offer a variety of social, cultural, and recreational activities to promote engagement and well-being.
  6. Transportation: Many facilities offer transportation services for medical appointments, shopping, and outings.
  7. Safety and Security: Assisted living facilities are designed with safety features such as emergency call systems and 24-hour staff availability.
  8. Wellness Programs: Some facilities have wellness programs that include exercise classes and health screenings.
  9. Memory Care: Some assisted living communities have dedicated memory care units for residents with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
  10. Health Care Services: While not as extensive as nursing homes, some assisted living facilities provide access to healthcare services, including nurse consultations and therapy.
  11. Respite Care: Short-term stays are available for individuals who need temporary care or when family caregivers need a break.
  12. Cultural and Religious Activities: Facilities may offer programs and services that cater to residents' cultural or religious preferences.

It's important to keep in mind that the services offered may differ between assisted living facilities. Families exploring assisted living options for their loved ones should thoroughly evaluate their individual needs and desires, selecting a facility that matches those specific requirements.

Additionally, each facility may have its own pricing structure and policies, so it's crucial to understand the costs and terms associated with care. The cost of assisted living can vary depending on the community's location, size, and amenities. Plus, assisted living facilities will charge surcharges on top of the base charge depending on the level of services that are required. The cost will also vary depending on location and the level of available amenities.

You can find the cost of care where you or a loved one lives by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Find Your Location.

Assisted living communities are ideal for providing a safe and supportive environment, promoting socialization and engagement, and offering assistance with daily activities without the institutional feel of a nursing home. Remember, while some assisted living facilities can handle simple supervision due to light dementia, not all. An assisted living facility also will evaluate their ability to offer services for a loved one. If their needs go beyond their ability to provide quality care, they will require them to be moved to another facility, often a nursing home. 

Nursing Homes: 24/7 Medical Care for Complex Needs

Nursing homes provide 24-hour skilled medical care, assistance with daily activities, rehabilitation services, and supervision, if required, for individuals who can no longer live independently. Nursing homes are very institutional in nature; however, for some people, it is the best option to provide necessary skilled services.

Some of the services typically offered by nursing homes include:

  1. Medical Care: Nursing homes have medical staff, including registered nurses and doctors, who can provide medical assessments, administer medications, and manage chronic health conditions.
  2. Personal Care: Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and toileting is provided to residents who require help.
  3. Rehabilitation Services: Nursing homes often offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to residents recovering from surgeries, injuries, or medical conditions.
  4. 24-Hour Supervision: Nursing homes have staff available around the clock to monitor residents' health and safety, ensuring immediate assistance in emergencies.
  5. Nutritional Services: Meal preparation and assistance with feeding are provided, often accommodating special dietary needs.
  6. Social and Recreational Activities: Nursing homes offer social and recreational programs to promote mental and emotional well-being, including arts and crafts, games, and outings.
  7. Housekeeping and Laundry: Staff take care of residents' laundry and maintain the cleanliness of living spaces.
  8. Medication Management: Medications are administered, and residents' medication regimens are monitored to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  9. Memory Care: Some nursing homes specialize in caring for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, offering specialized programs and secure living environments.
  10. Hospice Care: Some nursing homes provide hospice services for residents in the end stages of life, offering pain management and emotional support.

It's important to note that the specific services and quality of care can vary among nursing homes, so families should carefully research and visit facilities to find one that best meets the needs of their loved ones. Additionally, many nursing homes operate under state and federal regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of residents.

Making the Right Choice

Every option has its advantages and disadvantages. Consider your loved one's needs, preferences, and financial resources. If they own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, don't delay using it.

LTC NEWS can help process claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. LTC NEWS, in partnership with Amada Senior Care, a nationally recognized in-home health care agency, ensures that you and your loved ones receive the quality care you deserve. 

This service comes at no cost or obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

These four LTC NEWS guides will assist you in trying to find appropriate long-term services for a loved one:

Involve your loved one in discussions on their care preferences and prioritize open communication. Seek professional guidance from geriatric care managers or eldercare specialists. Tools like the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator and LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory can further simplify your search.

Remember: There's no one-size-fits-all solution. Consider a phased approach, transitioning between options as needs evolve. Explore additional resources like respite care and adult day programs for flexible support. Remember to prioritize your well-being while caring for your loved one. Support groups and individual therapy can be invaluable resources during this emotional journey.

Facing long-term care decisions can be daunting, but with knowledge, support, and open communication, you can navigate the maze and find the right path for your loved one, ensuring their comfort and well-being while easing the burden on yourself.

How About You?

Don't forget your planning. Have you addressed the consequences aging and declining health will have on you and your family? The ideal time to obtain Long-Term Care Insurance is when you are in your 40s or 50s. You can, if you are in your 60s or beyond, find affordable options if you have fairly good health. However, acting before you retire will be easier and even more affordable.

Understand that every insurance company has its own underwriting criteria, and premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies and policy options. Seek help from a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to assist you in getting accurate quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies offering long-term care solutions.  

Aging happens, and your parents will face chronic health issues, mobility hardships, dementia, and frailty at some point. Access to quality long-term care is essential, and armed with knowledge and resources, you can ensure your loved ones are taken care of appropriately. 

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About the Author

Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

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