Planning for Long-Range Care
Very often, home is the best starting place for long-range care. Before you consider other alternatives, apply some energy and funds to bolstering independence there. First, identify your most likely needs during the coming years with your doctor, who may be able to link you up with local services. The Eldercare Locator can also assist you. Family and friends may help meet some needs or come up with solutions, too.
Adapt your home. Stairs, baths, and kitchens present plenty of obstacles for elders. Bathrooms usually can be fitted with such items as walk-in showers, grab bars, nonskid mats, and higher toilet seats. Ramps, elevators, and other devices can help you handle stairs. Keep often-needed items in the handiest cabinets, and use grasping tools to get things that are out of reach rather than climbing on chairs or ladders.
Seek helping hands. Shopping for groceries and other essentials can be accomplished over the phone and via the Internet these days. Meal preparation, transportation, home repair, housecleaning, and help with financial tasks such as paying bills might be hired out if you can afford it, shared among friends and family, or included in the repertoire of elder services offered in your community or through long-term care insurance.
Plan for emergencies. Who can check in on you regularly? Who can you call in an emergency? What would happen if you fell and couldn’t reach the phone? Keep emergency numbers near each phone or on speed dial. Carry a cell phone or consider investing in a Lifeline or another type of personal alarm system, if necessary. Look into companionship services or phone checks from a local agency on aging or religious group.
When staying at home is not possible, other options abound. Long-term care options range from subsidized senior housing to assisted living communities to nursing homes. It’s wise to consider these before a need arises if only to look at affordability, waiting lists, insurance coverage, and the range of services offered.
Choosing long-term care facilities is a daunting task, so it’s usually best to break it down into manageable steps. A social worker or geriatric care manager may be able to offer valuable assistance throughout the process. Also, consider the following tips:
• Gather information about facilities in your desired locale from friends, your doctor, social workers, and resources such as the Eldercare Locator or your local Office on Aging.
• Weed out facilities that clearly don’t offer the range of services you are searching for or meet your religious or cultural needs, as well as any that have a poor reputation. Online tools at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allow you to compare nursing homes. Remember that location is important, too, since frequent visits from family and friends make a big difference in quality of life and quality of care.
• Work up a list of questions to ask at the most appealing facilities. Cost, range of services, and payment methods are three basic questions. Also ask such questions as how many people live there, what sort of problems brought them there, and how would your needs be met.
• Consider payment issues. Long-term care is costly, and most private insurance, Medicare, and "medigap" policies do not cover assisted living or long-term care — or even services in your home beyond the short term. Check with your state’s health insurance information program if you have questions about financing nursing-home care.
• Visit the places that make your short list. Talk with staff, residents, and family members of residents, if possible, and have a meal or two. After a formal visit, drop in at different times of the day. How are people treated? How much privacy do they have? What are the residents and activities like?
• Be sure you understand the legal and financial ramifications of the contract. It’s wise to have a lawyer check and explain the contract before you sign anything.
Show hospitality to strangers for, by doing that, some have entertained angels unawares.
Never stop helping others because others think that they abuse you. That stranger can be Jesus and you lose the opportunity to serve, even in something simple.
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