More than ever, when you or a loved one needs physical rehab, long-term care, or memory care, there are many options; and one size does not fit all. It can be overwhelming to sort through all the information to make this crucial decision. But these key steps can help ensure that you make the choice that works for your loved one and you:

1. Determine your or your loved one's needs

If the goal is a short stay for rehab after an injury, surgery, or illness, you will want to know what therapy services (such as physical and occupational therapy) the community provides to address specific goals. These goals are personalized for each individual and may include navigating a set of stairs or dressing without assistance.

If the need for care is due to Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia/cognitive impairment, memory care may be the best option. Memory care services range from assisted living, where residents are relatively stable otherwise, to skilled nursing, more appropriate for residents who also have medically complex conditions and would benefit from 24-7 nursing services. In either setting, memory care should offer 24-hour support, structured activities, and specially trained staff.

There are factors beyond cognitive challenges that might make long-term care the right fit. Skilled nursing centers offer 24-7 nursing care and assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, dressing, and grooming. If you or a loved one can no longer manage multiple ADLs due to an accident, injury, chronic illness, or other issue, a skilled nursing center is likely the best fit for maintaining comfort, safety, and quality of life.

2. Compare and contrast communities

The federal government maintains a website designed to help you assess nursing homes in your area. Doralyn Warren, director of nursing at Superior Care Nursing & Rehabilitation, advises, "Use the Nursing Home Compare website to find highly rated centers--it's a good indication that the care is high quality." Be sure to tap into your own network, as well. Ask health care providers, friends, and family for their experience and recommendations.

3. Make a site visit

Ask to see patient rooms and common spaces to evaluate cleanliness, comfort, and privacy. Check out the dining room and menus. If possible, have a meal there and interact with some of the patients or residents. Get answers to questions like:

• Do patients or residents seem comfortable, engaged, and happy?

• How long have most of the team leaders and nursing staff been at the center?

• Are there advance practice professionals or physicians on staff?

• Are staff friendly with patients/residents and address them by name?

• Are there activities that you or your loved one would enjoy?

• Can patients get up and go to bed when they want? Do they have some choices at mealtime? Can they enjoy special pleasures, like a visit from the family dog?

4. Consider financial options

Paying for care is a common concern. According to Mike Sims, COO of Superior Care Nursing & Rehabilitation, "With a qualifying three-day hospital stay, Medicare will pay for up to 100 days of in-patient care for those needing rehab therapy." For long-term or memory care, long-term care insurance or personal resources are commonly used. In some instances, Medicaid can cover also the cost as well. Sims continued, "Ask the social services or admissions staff to help assess payment options and available assistance."

You've got this

Under any circumstances, this can be a difficult decision. Having a clear understanding of the options, matching that with your individual needs and wants, and having a payment plan will enable you to make a wise, informed choice.

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