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Location Should Never Be The Sole Criteria For Selecting A Long Term Care Community

When I am hired by a family whose loved one has Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, my thoughts immediately turn to my Father. My Mother, who is a registered nurse, insisted upon caring for him at home until his medical conditions forced his transfer to a nursing home. He had been one of the charter physicians who helped open a major hospital in the 1960’s. Because of this fact, my Mother felt obligated to place him a nursing home that was owned by the hospital. It was centrally located for most of my family members, except for my husband and me. We would travel 25 miles every night after work so that I could visit him. The commute exhausted both of us. The poor care resulted in my Mother making a decision to move him to a nursing home that was closer to her, but even further away from us. The care and compassion that he received at the new nursing home was the difference between night and day. I just had to resign myself that I was going to see him less. As a senior living advisor, I always tell my clients that location is important but it shouldn’t be the sole factor in choosing a long term care community.

My clients were an 82 year old woman and her children. Their Father was at home with two caregivers who took care of him in 12 hour shifts. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His behavior was becoming very difficult to the point where he was a two person assist. The family was in favor of placing him in a long term care community. There was one child who volunteered to move him into her home. Her intent was hire a number of caregivers to accommodate the two person assist.

When I conducted the consultation, I recommended 3 communities that were within a ten mile radius for each family member. All of the homes had fantastic reputations for wonderful care. I had clients placed in all of them who could attest to that fact. Yet, when I made the recommendations, one child asked me why I hadn’t included a specific community as one of my recommendations. I told her that two factors had prevented me from recommending the community. First, they had no licensed special care unit where the staff was trained to deal with the behaviors of residents with Alzheimer’s disease. Second, the highest level of care offered was intermediate nursing care. I explained that if the Father developed complicated medical conditions like needing a feeding tube or tracheotomy, he would need to be moved. Her response was, “Oh, but I can ride my bike over to the community and even look in the window if I want to check on him.” I assured her that location is not the sole factor to be considered when choosing a long term care community. I told her that although the community in question probably wouldn’t serve their Father’s long term needs. I told her to go take a tour just to confirm the information I had relayed to her.

After taking tours of the three communities I recommended, the same daughter also toured the community that was within biking distance for her. She told me that it smelled on the inside and as if the odor was a cause for concern. I told her that accidents happen in nursing homes, but if the smell lingered and permeated the entire building, it was a problem. Yet, they went forward and placed him in a community I hadn’t recommended because it was close.

So how did the story end? Within a month of admission, he needed a feeding tube. They complained of poor staffing and odors. Unfortunately, he passed away very quickly. That is why it is always better to drive a little further for better care.