The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 2, 2010

Jennifer Foraker: Guidelines assist in choosing care center

— The decision to go to or place your loved one in an assisted living or skilled nursing center is never an easy one to make.

In fact it can be rather daunting with the different types of centers and costs, contracts and personal expectations thrown in the mix.

Below are some guidelines and tips from the Consumer Consortium on Assisted Living, that will help make the decision making process easier.

 The first thing you should do is to make an accurate and honest assessment of your physical, financial, mental and lifestyle needs. If you are a social person, look for a center that encourages group activities. If you need physical therapy, look for a facility that has a highly rated therapy department, etc.

 Visit as many nursing centers as you can to see which ones come closest to fitting your needs. Take a tour and don’t be afraid to ask questions that are important to your particular needs. Once you have done that, then narrow down your selection to the top two or three facilities you liked the best. Go back and revisit your top choices and ask even more questions. Talk to other residents and staff and then compare the answers. You can also call the long-term care ombudsman program and ask about what kinds of complaints and the frequency of complaints at the facility.

Ask to see a copy of the admissions agreement, which is a legal document that states what services are provided, fees, and resident rights, discharge criteria, etc. A good way to cover all your bases is to sit down with an attorney, especially an eldercare attorney, and have them go through the contract with you.

A few other questions to ask would be: does the facility provide transportation and if so is there a fee? What all services does housekeeping include? What is the facilities policy on theft and loss of personal property? How are fees charged and under what circumstances could fees be increased?

Following these basic guidelines will help to narrow down a center that will fit you or your loved ones personality and needs. For a list of skilled nursing or assisted living facilities in your area or for more information on how to choose a center please contact the Area Agency on Aging at 417-781-7562.

Jennifer Foraker is the ombudsman coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging.