Five Questions to Ask About Senior Care


Published: 03/09/2012



Choosing a home care agency or assisted living community for your loved one is a stressful process for many reasons.


A senior care crisis (be it a fall, prolonged/sudden serious illness, or medical emergency like a stroke or heart attack) is often the catalyst for a decision that requires an urgent response, putting extra pressure on those who are trying to decide what’s best amidst concerns about the prognosis of their loved one.


No matter what the reason for considering care -- perhaps your uncle’s Alzheimer’s has advanced to a point where it interferes with his ability to manage self-care -- and no matter what the time frame (24 hours out, 2 months out, or 2 years out), there are a few important questions to ask yourself, and potential providers, as you move forward:


  1. Would I feel comfortable living here (or having this individual provide personal care for me)? Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. See the home care provider or nursing facility through your grandmother’s eyes. If you feel uneasy about something or someone, it’s likely your grandmother will/does too. It’s never worth risking her safety and quality of life, so trust your instincts and know there are other options. 
  2. How well does this agency or community fit my loved one’s preferences? This means that you might first have to discuss those preferences with your loved one. Finding the perfect agency or community may be difficult, but a guideline of preferences will help to prevent settling for something that isn’t even close. 
  3. What happens when my loved one needs more care than the agency or community can provide? While it is nearly impossible to know if your Dad will get better or worse over time, it is important to weigh the possibilities of his needing more care as best you can. Be proactive: know what the provider’s policies are in terms of changing care needs and how other incidents (for example, if your Dad has dementia and occasionally experiences violent outbursts as a result of the disease, the risk of harm to staff or other residents may be too great or go beyond the limits of the provider’s liability) may impact your loved one’s ability to stay in that care setting. 
  4. Is care consistent no matter what time of day or day of the week? Visit the assisted living communities on your list at different times of the day and on different days of the week to get a sense of how well-staffed and well-run the facility is even when coverage is generally lighter (things often look very different on a Sunday afternoon or Saturday night than they do on a Monday at noon or Wednesday morning). In the case of home care, be sure to ask about holiday coverage or what happens if the caregiver doesn’t show up for a shift. Are they staffed enough to send a replacement caregiver for the day, or will you be on your own? 
  5. Are there hidden fees or costs? Your loved one’s care needs may change as time goes on, and usually the bill increases accordingly. When considering a residential care setting (like assisted living), be sure to ask what care services are covered and what is charged “a la carte.”