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Internet Resources Aren’t Foolproof When Researching Senior Living options

As a senior living advisor and Certified Care Manager, I always conduct a face to face assessment of my client. This gives me an opportunity to evaluate him/her from a cognitive and functional standpoint. I observe the environment s/he is living in, talk with the family about the individual’s personal history, finances, and support system. That way, I can make an assessment of how I can improve the senior’s quality of life by recommending services that allow them to remain at home (That is, via the most economical and efficient services). Or, I can help them ascertain whether placement in a community would be more appropriate. In either case, I always include the senior in the care plan if they are able to participate. Just as I do my “in person” due diligence, you should do the same when researching senior living options. Here is what you should expect if you rely on the internet as a credible source of information:

1. I recently used Google to research the words “Chicago nursing homes.” I received over 44,000,000 returns. When you look at the websites for long term care communities, they rarely give you in depth information, and the prices are almost never listed.

2. Some of the websites will show the viewer the most newly decorated or beautiful areas of the property. They neglect to show the overall big picture. I have arrived at many of these organizations to find that the pictures on the site were no reflection of what the community was really like. Conversely, some of my clients have looked at the sites for the communities I have recommended to them. One my my clients reportedly logged on, and told me she was disappointed with how dingy and oppressive they looked. In truth, the facilities were beautiful and the pictures that were posted didn’t do them justice.

3. Some of the popular websites have posted information that is blatantly incorrect. I once recommended a supportive living community (assisted living supported by Medicaid) to one of my clients. She called me in an agitated state because the site said the community didn’t accept private pay, VA benefits, or Medicaid, all of which were false. A huge red flag was thrown up that upset my client.

4. Many people rely upon the Nursing Home Compare 5-Star Rating System displayed on the Medicare.gov website when they are choosing a nursing home for a loved one. That system can be very misleading. There are three components that make up the criteria for that system. They include the annual inspection conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the quality factors, and the staffing information for each community. The last two components are reported by the nursing home staff of each community. I do not trust those components as being accurate for that reason. The results of the state surveys are not reported and posted in a timely manner. Therefore, a lot of the information is old. I have seen nursing homes that provide stellar care receive one or two-star ratings. At times, fabulous nursing homes get a very poor rating because the Federal inspection team comes in and tags them for every nit-picky item they can find (Note, the Feds often check out nursing homes that have had wonderful state inspections over a number of years. The result is usually a report that is full of deficiencies).

5. The internet should not be used to judge a home care agency. Choosing the right in home caregiver is a painstaking process that presents challenges, just like choosing a facility. It requires a rigorous interviewing process of the agency’s policies and procedures. It is also a very personal process that I compare to dating. You may “date” a few caregivers before you decide to marry one of them!