It is always hard to decide to place your loved one in a long-term care facility and seek its options. Many family members are hesitant to make such decisions, and some feel guilt for considering placement as an option. In fact, however, choosing an institutional care facility can be the best scenario for both caregivers and patients. Not getting proper care can deteriorate not only patients’ health but also family’s.
However, trying to navigate long-term care resources can be exhausting. There are many options to choose from. How do you determine which one is best? There are almost 200 long-term care facilities in St. Louis city and County, and half of them are skilled nursing facilities. Moreover, there are multiple types of long-term care communities based on which level of care they can accommodate. Thus, family caregivers are overwhelmed with choices they should make for their loved ones. Especially in the post-COVID-19 era, families can be more frustrated with COVID-related policies, such as visitation and vaccine requirements. Therefore, VOYCE assists individuals and families in planning long-term care placement.
Assess Your Needs
The time might come that you realize your elderly family member is no longer able to live independently. If the person needs medical equipment 24/7, has incontinence problems, or is diagnosed with mid-stage dementia, the family should consider long-term care.
Once the decision has been made, it is essential to determine which level of care the person needs. There are three different levels of long-term care: residential care facility (RCF), assisted living facility (ALF), and skilled nursing facility (SNF). All three facilities provide 24-hour care, while a skilled nursing facility provides the highest supervision for residents who need medical care 24/7. On the other hand, residents in residential care facilities can perform their activities of daily living (ADLs) – eating, bathing, getting dressed, toileting, and mobility– without assistance. Thus, facilities provide minimum assistance with medication, personal care, or diet. Assisted living facilities offer a wide range of help, from basic ADLs to memory care for residents with dementia. You can always refer to the ‘Level of Long-term Care Chart’ to assess your needs.
If you and your family need dementia-related support and care coordination, you can reach out to the local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter and access the ALZ 24/7 Helpline (800-272-3900).
Determine Your Payment
Residing in a long-term care facility can be expensive. Thus, assessing available payment options is critical. If an individual or family cannot pay out of pocket or does not have private long-term care insurance, they should seek government programs such as Medicaid. In fact, Medicaid is the primary source of long-term care expenditure. To apply for such benefits, a family should understand its eligibility and requirements based on where they live. You can visit the government website to determine whether you are eligible for Missouri Medicaid.
Additionally, VOYCE offers a FREE education course on July 13 about ‘Financing Long-term Care’ for families. You can always register for our education series through the VOYCE Community Education webpage.
Search for the Right One
The next step is finding the right place for your loved ones. There are numerous ways to find long-term care facilities. The Missouri DHSS manages a website called ‘Show Me Long-term Care’ for individuals to find any licensed long-term care facilities in Missouri. Also, people can compare facilities within a particular zip code through the Medicare website.
Currently, due to the pandemic, each facility is determining whether or not they are allowing in-person tours of the community. Please call ahead and work with the facility to schedule a tour and understand their safety precautions before arriving.
VOYCEconnect Helpline also provides long-term care resources for families and caregivers with the most up-to-date data. You can contact the VOYCEconnect Coordinator and discuss your concerns about caregiving. Then, the coordinator can provide more customized information based on your payment options and available accommodations of long-term care facilities. The VOYCEconnect helpline can be reached at 314-919-2403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to Expect After Placement
As we live in the post-COVID era, caregivers and families should review visitation policies of certain long-term care facilities. In Missouri, visitors can schedule outdoor or indoor visits to facilities. However, there could be a restriction if a resident is quarantined or is COVID-19 positive. Also, some facilities require a rapid COVID-19 test even if a visitor is fully vaccinated.
Last month, VOYCE discussed the most recent visitation guidance released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). But many of the long-term care facilities in MO are still adjusting to this policy. If you are not allowed to visit your loved one in a facility or need more resources, please reach out to your local ombudsman.
Since getting a vaccine is strongly recommended upon visitation, family caregivers and residents might be concerned about the efficacy and side effects of COVID-19. CDC elaborated on how the vaccine works and the possible side effects after the vaccination. VOYCE also dealt with vaccine decisions, especially for older adults and their family members, in another recent blog post. More than 40% of people in America received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the government expects 80% in early August. If you have not registered for a COVID-19 vaccine, please visit the DHSS website to get a vaccine.
VOYCE is always available to help those who are seeking long-term care information. We offer free education courses for long-term care residents, families, and communities. Please check out the course schedule for 2021 and register.