Since SNFs can differ significantly, comparing them is not an easy task. It’s even more challenging because the care that will be provided to your Mom or Dad is literally vital. You will want to be extra-vigilant in researching and evaluating options, and if your elder parent is up to it, make sure they take an active part in this process. They are the one who will be living in whatever facility you choose.
If Mom or Dad lives with you or nearby now, you might be tempted to simply pick a place that’s closest so you can stay connected as easily as possible. It might turn out that this nearest option is also the very best, but don’t assume that, take the time to look at every detail. There is so much to consider!
Do start by picking a geographic location. If Mom or Dad currently resides some distance away, moving them closer could be a big benefit for them as well as you and other family members. Aging and increasing health problems are not for the faint of heart, and for most seniors having loved ones near is the biggest blessing.
Once you’ve settled on geography, you can start your search by:
- Looking online. You can also use Medicare’s search-and-compare tool.
- Talking to your Parent(s) (or your own) primary care provider. They may have referrals for you that they can personally endorse, and in any case, they can tell you what specific services your Mom or Dad will need in the near term and, most likely, in the future.
- Asking around. Talk to neighbors, friends, your pastor and fellow church members to get referrals. Hearing about negative experiences can be instructive, too.
- Check with your local Senior Center. They usually have lists of senior living communities in the area, with contact information. The staff and/or seniors who are there for activities may also have personal recommendations to pass along.
Armed with your initial list, it’s time to start winnowing.
Questions to Ask
You will have questions, lots of questions. Skilled Nursing facilities are required by law to provide written information about their services and fees, and they are required to answer additional questions you may have. If it seems key staff are being less-than-transparent with you, that should be a red flag.
As you look into the specifics of each potential facility, you will undoubtedly think up more questions. Write them down, because you won’t remember all of them. Plus, you want to ask all the same questions of every facility you are seriously considering, so nothing gets overlooked. Medicare has prepared a handy checklist which will help – you can print out a separate list for each facility.
Ask about everything:
- Are they certified by Medicare and/or Medicaid? Medicare also rates Skilled Nursing communities according to a 5-star quality rating system.
- Does the facility provide memory care? Even if your loved one is not showing signs of dementia now, that doesn’t necessarily predict the future, and having to change residences is especially hard on dementia patients.
- Staff-to-resident ratio (and types of medical professionals included in overall staffing)
- Staff training (licensed medical personnel should still get ongoing training on new care techniques, etc. – does this organization go above and beyond?)
- How resident treatment plans are developed and monitored, and how you and your loved one will be involved (you both have every right to participate and to veto any treatment or medication)
- The full list of services that are offered – medical, including any onsite specialists, as well as custodial (assistance with activities of daily living).
- Do they provide transportation if your loved one needs to visit the doctor or dentist?
- Monthly fees, especially a detailed list of what is covered and what is not.
- What insurance do they accept? (Mom’s supplemental Medicare coverage or long-term care insurance may pay for some options, otherwise it will be out-of-pocket for her or you.)
- Are private rooms available? (in some cases, doctors prescribe this, but residents who can afford it may choose to have a private room rather than sharing with someone else)
- Visitation policies (undoubtedly suspended due to COVID-19, but what is their “normal” policy regarding who can visit and when)
- Do they (and how do they) communicate with families to provide routine updates about their loved one?
- What kinds of programming are available to residents, onsite or off-site – social, educational, physical exercise, entertainment, pursuit of hobbies, etc. All facilities are required to offer activities, but this can be a major differentiator.
- Are worship services, religious study, and/or pastoral counseling available?
- Family support – one-on-one counseling, support groups, etc.
- Emergency plans – what will happen if there is an emergency within the facility or in the greater community?
- References from families of current residents
Specifically ask about the facility’s experience with COVID-19. Have they had positive diagnoses among staff or residents? What steps are they taking to protect everyone?
See for Yourself
No one wants to move to a place they’ve never laid eyes on. There is only so much you can glean from researching and asking questions, you need to see and hear and smell for yourself. Unfortunately, as long as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, personal tours of Skilled Nursing facilities are not an option.
Nonetheless, you can use other means to get a better feel for each community – photos and videos and, again, asking lots of questions. Talking with families of current residents, as noted above, can be invaluable at this time. So can seemingly small details such as how staff answer the phone and how quickly they respond if you have questions or need a call-back.
If you are able to visit in person, look for:
- Appearance of the grounds as you approach – sterile and institutional or cheery and welcoming?
- Tour the entire campus, to get a feel for external and internal ambiance and see how the facility is laid out. Is the place clean and fresh-smelling? Does it look and feel homey? What are personal rooms like?
- Security precautions and procedures.
- Observe residents and staff. How do they interact? Do staff know residents by name and seem friendly with them? Do both staff and residents look happy? Are residents engaged in something or just sitting?
- Don’t just look at the menu, eat a meal. Mom wants good food, and she deserves it! How far does the facility go to accommodate food preferences and special dietary requirements?
Schedule a personal meeting with intake staff to discuss Mom’s situation and ask questions. If in-person isn’t feasible, set a time to talk via phone or, better yet, do a video call so you can see the person’s body language and facial expressions as you chat. Be sure to have your written list of questions with you, so you don’t forget something.
Don’t Wait to Investigate Your Options
The earlier you narrow your choices, the better, because many types of senior living communities, especially the best Skilled Nursing Facilities, have waiting lists. That’s true for Magnolia Manor, too. However, we do give preference to current residents who find they need to move to a more advanced type of care. So if your loved one already resides at a Magnolia Manor campus in Assisted Living or Memory Care, they might not have to wait. We also do not charge a waiting list fee, as some facilities do.