What To Determine Before Searching For A Senior Care Community

What To Determine Before Searching For A Senior Care Community

What To Determine Before Searching For A Senior Care Community

Ben Souchek:
Good morning. I am Ben Souchek with Home Downsizing Solutions, and thank you for joining us today on the interview series for Home Downsizing Solutions. Today, I have a special guest, Steve Kuker, with Senior Care Consulting in Kansas City. And thanks for joining us again today, Steve.

Steve Kuker:
Thanks, Ben. Thanks for the opportunity. I appreciate it.

Ben Souchek:
Absolutely. Well, in another video, we discussed, somewhat, when to consider moving to a senior care community, but like you always say, you want to start earlier, not later, if you don’t have to.

There are certainly some things to determine before you even start the search, because I know myself, from recently, it really can be an overwhelming task when a person has no experience with this subject, to all of a sudden, “Okay, I have to get my mom or my dad, or a loved one, a spouse, into more care than what I can give them.” So I wanted to bring you on today to discuss that.

Steve Kuker:
Okay, sure. I appreciate that. And something you said earlier: Start sooner than later. You’ll never regret that. I’d rather be a little too soon than a little too late on this search. There are so many factors and wildcards, including the potential for waiting lists. So if you’re out ahead of the need and you can get your homework done, get your name on a wait list, and you kind of have the luxury … If you’re not in a crisis mode and you have the luxury to wait out a little bit of a waiting list, you’re in the driver’s seat, and that’s a much more comfortable place to be, if possible.

Items To Determine Before Starting A Senior Community Search

So I always like to mention that there are some definite things you want to determine before even beginning your search. A lot of people, with the best of intentions, make the huge mistake of saying, “Okay, yeah, we need a place, so let’s go look.” And they drive down the street to the neighborhood place, and “Oh, yeah. There’s that place that was built about a year ago. It’s right by my work.” So they drive over and check that out. And there’s a place by your church, et cetera, et cetera. But this is just really just kind of a blind approach. If you don’t know what you need, and you don’t know what they offer, you might get lucky, but you’re probably wasting a lot of time, with the best of intentions.

What Level Of Care Is Needed

So I like to educate my clients, and I like to educate my listening audience, through the radio program, Senior Care Live, on what to determine before even beginning your search. So number one, what level of care do you need? And I equate the level of care, and I relate that to the licensure. So according to the state’s licensure, what does this particular place … What do they offer?

So long-term care is the highest level of care. I call it long-term care; a lot of people still know that or think of it as the nursing home. It’s that medical model that can help with pretty much anything that you’re going to need.

The assisted living level of care, so there’s a separate licensure there. It’s different than long-term care. Assisted living is a social model that can help you minimally or fully with those activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, grooming. They prepare all of your meals, snacks, and hydration. They can help you use the toilet. They can help you with incontinence management, to a point. They can distribute your medications. There’s a full slate of activities for social engagement. Physicians come to an assisted living community, essentially making house calls. There’s transportation to doctors’ appointments outside of the building. So there’s a lot of help there, but there are some limitations, and it is different. Assisted living is definitely different than long-term care. So we need to know what you need before beginning the search.

Another level of care is residential care. I would generally call that assisted living on the lighter side of things. There is one in Kansas. Other states call it assisted living, but residential … Or excuse me, home plus.

And home plus is a house, so they either build a big ranch-style house or they’ll buy a house and make the modifications. And it could accommodate six to maybe 12 residents in a home-like setting. But that is really an assisted living level of care. And so you need to determine what level of care you need for moving forward before beginning that search.

Type Of Care Needed

And then the next thing you need to know is the type of care. So what type of care do you need? Do you need just general? I just call it general care, just everyday care and support. Do you need memory care? And memory care is a special type of care for someone with cognitive issues, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. It could be stroke-related or Parkinson’s-related, but there’s some sort of a cognitive issue. There’s a special type of care for a resident with those needs.

Do you need skilled nursing and rehab? And that’s a very special program, post hospitalization.

And then some other specialty types of care: mental health care. Does your loved one need mental health care?

Do you need hospice care? Do you need respite care?

So we have our level of care, and then we have to determine our type of care, and then the elephant in the room, right? How are we going to pay for this?

How To Pay For Senior Care Living

All of it, as you might imagine, is very expensive. So how are you going to pay for your care? So you have the different payment methods.

You have private pay. So if you ever hear anyone say, “Oh, we’re a private pay community,” that is using your own resources to pay, every month, for your care. Will you be able to use Medicare to help pay for your care? Will you need to qualify for the Medicaid program? The Medicaid program says that if you should outlive your assets and meet particular qualifications, then the Medicaid program would pay for the majority of the cost of your care at your senior care community.

And then sometimes, people will have long-term care insurance, and I think only about 5 or 6 percent of those needing it actually have it. It’s one of those insurance contracts that’s very specialized, but if you have it and you need it, it is worth its weight in gold. I’m a huge fan of long-term care insurance.

And then if you’re a veteran or a surviving spouse of a deceased veteran, you may qualify for a great benefit from the VA, called the VA Aid and Attendance Benefit.

So just to quick review: What level of care do you need? What type of care do you need? And then how are we going to pay for it?

Best Location For The Senior Care Community

And then the next point, number four: location. So we all want to be as close as we can possibly be, so that it’s convenient to stop by and check in and on and visit our loved ones. But sometimes, you may need to throw the net out a little further in that search to find the best fit and the best care available. So try not to be too tight with that location parameter.

There may be a place that just works out perfectly, that’s close to you. But my question, when I’m working with clients, is how far are you willing to drive to see your loved one? And so just determine that location parameter.

Personal Preferences And Needs

And then the last one: any personal preferences and needs. So this is something very specific. Usually, we don’t see this too often, but “Mother has played piano for the last 50 years. It’s just part of her DNA, at this point. She loves playing. It’d be great if they had a piano available for mother to play. It would make her really, really happy.” So just something that’s just very, very specific for you or your loved one.

So again, what to determine before you even think about beginning your search: level of care, type of care, payment methods, location parameters, and then any personal preferences and needs.

Now You Can Start Your Senior Care Community Search

And once you are able to determine this, then you can really focus your visits to some of these communities, to determine which one is the best one for you, and not waste your time. And again, if you don’t do this, it’s very common for people to spend 50 to 100 hours in this search. And many times, they’re more confused, at that point, than they were in the beginning.

So you do yourself a huge favor and determine these things before beginning that search, and you’ll save a lot of time, and you’ll probably have a much better outcome.

Ben Souchek:
Absolutely. That was a lot of great items that I don’t know that I would have ever thought of, especially if you don’t work with this or think about this on a daily or weekly basis. There’s a lot to think about. And Steve, this is a magic question here; I’m not sure if you have a one or two-minute answer for it. But taking all these things into account, certainly if someone is responsible for a parent, or spouse, as far as that goes, or anyone, …….

When you go through this list, you do the best that you can with that last item that you mentioned, to make sure that when you find a community to put the loved one in, it’s a good fit. So that it’s a positive experience and hopefully not a negative one that they, and maybe you, regret afterwards. Is there any way to make sure that can happen, to avoid the bad situations?

How To Avoid Moving A Loved One To The Wrong Senior Care Community

Steve Kuker:
I would … And I think we’re going to do another video in this series that might unpack that in a lot more detail, as far as how to find the right one. But if you cover your bases here, that’s going to go a long way in finding the right one. And if you do have any of those personal preferences or needs, that could be the one point that really is kind of a make-or-break situation. So that piano for mother, for example.

I had one gentleman tell me that his mother would not eat any fowl whatsoever. And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “No chicken sandwich, no turkey on Thanksgiving, no eggs. If it has a beak, forget about it.” And he goes, “I know it sounds kind of weird,” he said, “but she won’t complain. She just won’t eat.”

And so I said, “Well, that’s really good to explain that to the dietary folks, so that they make sure that she has a diet that is to her liking and to her preference.”

And “Mother loves bridge,” or “Dad loves to play pool,” or “Dad loves to get out, and he likes that dirt therapy. He likes to do some gardening.” So if you find out what your loved one would enjoy and some of these personal preferences and needs, and then make sure the place you choose can address those and fulfill those needs, that will go a long way in making this a successful placement.

Ben Souchek:
Very good. Well, Steve, thank you again for joining us today, and for the info. And look forward to seeing you in the next segment of our series here today.

Steve Kuker:
Excellent. All right, thanks, Ben.

Ben Souchek:
Thank you.

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