Prior planning important for senior care

2015-03-08 | St. Joseph News-Press

March 08--Choosing long-term care for a loved one can be a difficult and stressful situation, but knowing what to look for and how facilities perform can make the process easier.

"It's difficult to place your loved ones in a nursing home," says Freda Miller, caregiver support manager with the Northwest Missouri Area Agency on Aging. "The stigma is still there that they are giving up a lot of their independence. It's emotional for the family and it's emotional for the person that's moving in."

To select the best care facility, Ms. Miller and Becky Caldwell, regional ombudsman manager with the Northwest Missouri Area Agency on Aging, recommend visiting multiple locations.

"Go to the facility and check it out," Ms. Caldwell says. "Make some observations of how the staff interacts with the residents. Talk to family members in the home and see what their feelings are in the nursing home."

She recommends families also visit the nursing home during an unscheduled time.

"You want to make a visit unannounced, maybe on a weekend or an evening, to get the whole picture of the home," she says.

Today's residents no longer fit the "mold" for senior care, including rising early and going to bed early, Ms. Miller says.

"We are coming into a different group of seniors coming into these homes," she says. "When you look at your loved ones, you want to know if that home is going to make your loved one adhere to their schedule, or if they are going to adhere to your loved one's schedule."

She recommends utilizing additional resources for navigating the process, Ms. Caldwell says.

"It's a process and the more information they gather and the more conversations they have with their loved ones, prior to the need, will make the transition smoother for everyone," she says.

Medicare's Nursing Home Compare website,, aims to show users how facilities perform based on health inspection ratings, quality measures and staff ratings. They recently changed to the five-star quality rating, which gives a more comprehensive overview from trained inspectors, according to Medicare. The site ranks each facility, and allows for side-by-side comparison. Ms. Caldwell also recommends the Show Me Long Term Care resources and the Elder Care Locator, both available online.

"It's always good to plan ahead and see how your loved ones feel about long-term care before the need arises," Ms. Miller says. "It is their life and their opinion does matter."

Jena Sauber can be reached

at Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPSauber.