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Ask The Expert: The Keys to Selecting a Long-Term Care Provider

This is a decision unlike any other. Here are some points to consider.

By Douglas Terwilliger and Patti and Rob Robison

The process of selecting a long-term care provider too often resembles that of buying a car. Before making a decision, you must review your options and your finances. In both situations, the difference between legitimate and rogue outfits can be difficult to spot, and you may walk away from meeting with their representatives more anxious and confused than when you walked in. Doesn’t choosing a health care provider deserve its own process? Here’s our advice for making sure you avoid the lemons.

A successful health care provider selection process always:

Starts with a candid assessment.

Has there been a change in life circumstances such as the loss of a loved one? Has there been a change in physical or psychological health?

Takes into consideration the desires and fears of the care recipient.

How can the care be provided without stomping on the recipient’s personal dignity and sense of independence? A decision to pursue in-home care options and/or facility or community options will drastically affect the list of factors to consider.

Requires an understanding of state licensing and regulatory requirements.

This is key to sorting out the legitimate and rogue providers. Information should be available through your area Office on Aging or a state-level Department of Consumer Affairs.

Entails thorough research and comprehensive interview questions.

Don’t be distracted by the décor of the office or the charm of the in-home representative—you’ve got questions to ask. Many public agencies and nonprofits offer assessment forms and interview questions at no cost (try the Mayo Clinic Web site: HO00084).

Involves the selection of a company and not an individual caregiver.

Just imagine what you’ll do if your individual provider gets sick, wants a day off, or leaves! A reputable company will provide you with an affidavit describing its background screening procedures and a clear statement confirming that all caregivers meet or exceed the requirements.

Includes straight-talk about immediate and long-term costs and payment expectations.

Beware the à la carte fees, the “additional” charges, and the term for which any rate is guaranteed. Also, how will bills be paid, and who’s paying?

Defines the expected role of friends and loved ones.

To what extent can friends and family function as family caregivers? What are the constraints that could affect botheir availability and ability to be caregivers?

Recognizes the dynamic nature of elder care.

A series of decisions will probably have to be made over time and will likely involve more than one provider.

Is predicated on the well-being of the care recipient.

Seniors often place far too much emphasis on reserving an inheritance for their families and deny or delay much needed care. Just as research has shown that a vast majority of seniors prefer to remain in and enjoy the comfort and privacy of their own homes, research has shown that a vast majority of adult children would prefer to have peace of mind today, knowing that their parents are receiving quality care, rather than receive a check tomorrow at the closing of the parents’ estate.

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