What Are 6 Key Steps to Find Senior Care?
Finding the right senior care community for yourself or your loved one is an important journey, and it shouldn’t be rushed. You should feel confident that the care you find is exactly right for you both now and in the future.
To make your search easier, we’ve compiled this guide to the logistics of a senior care search and broken it down into 6 key steps. We recommend that you do your best to follow these steps sequentially. Here’s a quick overview:
- Understand your options
- Get recommendations
- Call 5 places
- Virtually Visit 3 places
- Finalize your list
However, keep in mind that these steps are a guideline to help you find senior care. They may vary from person to person based on your unique situation. You may also take these steps out of order if a health event or emergency occurs. These steps will help you be prepared, no matter how you ultimately find senior care!
Step 1: Understand Your Type of Senior Care
Before you begin searching, make sure you understand the category of senior care that you or your loved one may need. There are a number of settings where you can receive senior care or senior housing, and each comes with a range of amenities and services.
For example, here’s how we differentiate residential care options at Benchmark Senior Living:
- Independent Living
- Assisted Living
- Memory Care
- Skilled Nursing Care
- Respite Care
Broadly speaking, these options range from minimal support — such as lawn care — to comprehensive support designed for those who could benefit from extra care. You should both assess your options and weigh the services you anticipate needing, to make sure you find senior care that suits you.
However, those categories are just the Benchmark approach. Though we’ve provided an overview of types of care, no two home care or hospice agencies are alike. No two assisted living or LifeCare communities are alike. Universal descriptions of each category are nearly impossible.
Sometimes, the differences in settings or services are subtle, other times, more distinctive. They may vary based on what state or zip code you live in, how the service or care setting is regulated and licensed, and what their capacity is for serving seniors with more advanced care needs.
To feel confident in your options, please be sure to ask questions and read all the fine print before choosing a setting or service provider.
Step 2: Ask for Recommendations to Find Senior Care
Because finding senior care isn’t always straightforward, ask for help. Ask neighbors, friends, colleagues, and health care providers who know about senior care for their recommendations. Social workers and hospital discharge planners can also provide suggestions of care agencies or senior living communities in the area.
Word-of-mouth referrals can give you a strong starting point, or help you narrow down the results you find online — especially if the feedback is coming from a person who shares similar values and standards. Use the resources around you for a real-life perspective on senior care options.
Step 3: Get More Details Online
With these recommendations in hand, go online and find out if the communities you’ve heard about match up to your needs. For instance, check if they:
- Are in a desired location
- Have good reviews
- Match your preferences
- Have options that meet your potential care needs
Get as much information as you can from the care agency or community’s website. But don’t stop there! There are a number of great sites online that can supplement your research.
We recommend that you consult ElderCare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging. The service also includes a toll-free number 1-800-677-1116, connecting you to a spectrum of community and state-based resources like adult day services, transportation, in-home meal delivery, and more.
If you’re considering hospice providers, consult Hospice Compare by Medicare.Gov or the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
However, keep in mind that some senior care search sites, like SeniorAdvisor.com or Caring.com, typically only list the communities that have partnered with them. Take anything you read online with a grain of salt.
Step 4: Choose 5 Places to Call
Once you’ve gotten a sense of the options, it’s time to find senior care options that you’re ready to investigate further.
Make a list of your top 5 options, with notes on why you chose each one. Then, call these communities to schedule next steps. Depending on the senior care, this may be an information session, a virtual tour, or an interview with a home-care professional.
You can also use these calls to get a sense of what the staff, atmosphere and community is like. Even a phone call can give you great insight into how you or your loved one would be treated.
Step 5: Choose 3 Places to Virtually Visit
If you’re considering a residential care setting (i.e. Alzheimer’s care, assisted or independent living), choose at least 3 places to visit via virtual tour. Use all the information you’ve gathered and the insights from your phone calls to determine which ones are worth a visit.
Check out this post to read our top tips on how to ensure you have a great virtual tour!
If you’re looking for care for yourself, try to include a family member or loved one on the tour for other perspectives. If you’re looking for a community for a parent or relative, they should absolutely join you for virtual tours.
However, they may be hesitant or resistant. Be as compassionate as you can. Check out these recommendations from author, former caregiver, and intergenerational communication expert David Solie — and don’t push your loved one. After all, you’re partners in the journey to find senior care. Give control where and when possible, and emphasize the priorities of choice and independence.
Step 6: Finalize a List of Preferences
After the virtual tours, make a list of preferences, priorities, and perks. Review your notes from the tour: What stood out? What concerned you? What impressed you? Compare notes with anyone who joined you.
Find out what your loved one’s priorities are too: he or she may find the location to be more important than how the community looks or be more concerned about meal plan options than the number of activities on the calendar.