Ryan Patterson is the Founder and CEO of SeniorAdvice.com, a leading online resource and advocacy site for seniors and their caregivers. We recently spoke with Ryan to get some information on the different types of senior care and advice about what to look for when choosing a senior care facility for your loved one.
Related: eBook: How to Choose Assisted Living Like a Pro!
Why did you choose to create SeniorAdvice.com?
My dear grandmother, known to the family as Mammaw, passed away last year at the age of 96. In the later years of her life, I saw her struggle through the transition from being fully independent, to needing a little extra help, to needing full-time assisted care, and finally to end of life care.
Beyond the obvious emotional strain it took on our family, it was also very difficult to make decisions about her care. What type of care does she need? Are we choosing a place that's right for her? Can we find care that is also convenient for the family? I decided there needed to be a more seamless way to educate people in that position and help them find quality care, so I used my background in web development and Internet marketing to build SeniorAdvice.com.
In the past, nursing homes and elder care facilities have been perceived as dreary, depressing places. Is that stereotype accurate today?
That stereotype can still be accurate, unfortunately; but there are also wonderful care options available for seniors at all levels of need. This is why it's so important to research, read reviews, and visit multiple communities before choosing one. It can mean the difference between a place where your loved one receives subpar care in a drab environment versus one with exceptional personalized service, lavish amenities, and fun, social, and stimulating environments.
If a family is trying to choose between home health care and an assisted living facility for their elderly loved one, what factors should they consider?
They should first consider the needs and level of care required by their loved one. If he or she is able to be somewhat independent but needs extra help keeping up with housework and personal care, home health care can be a great option. If he or she needs more extensive monitoring and frequent access to medical care, assisted living is probably more fitting.
Of course, cost can also be a determining factor. In-home care can be affordable if it's only required for a few hours a week; but if a patient needs extensive personal care from a trained caregiver, costs can quickly become prohibitive for most families.
For what types of senior citizens would adult day care be ideal?
Adult daycare can be a great option for patients who need a lot of care and monitoring, but also have family with whom they live and who provides most of their care. Patients such as those with Alzheimer's or dementia who live at home with loved ones can be great candidates for adult daycare. This type of service gives family a reprieve from daily caregiving duties, or can provide needed care during work hours.
When looking for a senior housing facility, what are some of the aspects or areas that are often overlooked?
It's very important to ask how many staff are available per client to understand how much attention will actually be paid to your loved one. Additionally, you should always ask what type of training the staff has received – are there full-time nurses available, physicians, etc? Finally, many communities have information published by Medicare about their complaint and inspection history. This can be a valuable, unbiased way to find out about the quality record of a facility.
What types of claims that are made by senior housing facilities should make family members suspicious?
Be very careful with facilities that have an advertising focus on being low-cost. While cost is always a consideration, communities should be focused primarily on quality care and secondarily on cost savings. Facilities that advertise how cheap they are may also provide substandard care for your loved one.
What are some criteria that should be considered when looking for a memory care or Alzheimer's/dementia facility for a loved one?
With Alzheimer's and memory care, it is even more important that your loved one receive close personal attention, so a small staff-to-client ratio is ideal. You should also make sure that the staff has specialized training to deal specifically with dementia, as this type of care is more involved than typical assisted living. Finally, you should always ask questions about the security of the community, since some dementia patients have a tendency to wander.
With an aging population, what changes relating to senior housing and elder care do you envision in the future?
I think we will see more continuing care communities that allow seniors to transition from independence into more extensive care without having to frequently be uprooted. For those suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia, I think we will see more interactive living environments that allow patients to be free and expressive in the way they live with their conditions.
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