When it comes to helping clients choose an assisted living facility or long-term care facility for a loved one, Moriah Adamo
is both attorney and de facto social worker.
“A large part of our work is social work, because you’re typically dealing with a family in crisis,” says Adamo, an elder law partner at Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara & Wolf. “They’re coming to you because someone in their family has experienced some sort of health care decline—or health care crisis—that is requiring the intervention of a third party to allow them to live safely in the community or in a facility.
“I always tell people, ‘You worry about making sure that the care your family member is receiving is the best. That’s your role—to take care of that person. Our role is to deal with all the bureaucracy.’”
Important Factors to Look for in Homes for Aging Parents
When looking for the right facility, Adamo and other New York elder law attorneys
suggest gathering as much information as possible via family and friends who have been through the senior living home process. Their main advice? Ask questions.
“Choosing an assisted living facility or nursing home can be a daunting task,” says Jaclyn Kramer
, an associate at Futterman & Lanza in Smithtown. She lists off some of the important factors to consider in home care:
- The location of the facility
- The medical care needs of the potential resident
- The availability of a bed
- The type of accepted payment source
- The staff-to-resident ratio
- Security issues
- The social environment
- Health and safety inspection reports
- Resident and family satisfaction
Comparing Assisted Living Communities
Kramer and others say a good way to compare care options online is with the Nursing Home Compare tool at medicare.gov. They also suggest visiting the facilities in person, and carefully observing the behaviors of residents and their relatives, the interaction between caregivers and residents, and the facilities’ environments.
“A good facility should look and smell clean,” says Kramer. “The residents should be neatly dressed and be participating in activities. The staff should interact with the residents in a friendly manner and be attentive to their needs. The environment—lighting, exits, furniture, equipment, temperature, handrails, et cetera—should appear and feel safe for the residents.”
If you don’t feel qualified to make those judgment calls, there’s another option.
“I generally recommend that they meet with a geriatric care manager who can complete a clinical assessment and make a recommendation for an appropriate level of care,” says Lauren Mechaly
, an associate at Schiff Hardin. “I always recommend that the family visit the facility and consider not only the quality and level of care provided but also the population, the opportunities for socialization, proximity to family members or other loved ones, as well as any other case-specific factors.”
Part of the attorney’s job is to narrow down the choices for clients and help with the admissions process. They also assist with financing options.
“The attorney determines if it’s a private-pay situation,” says Adamo, “and if so, for how long, and then makes sure that everything is in order to apply for third-party health insurance if necessary, including Medicaid.”
All three attorneys describe the process as “daunting.”
“Take time to do the leg work and look at the facilities recommended either by your elder law attorney
or by a social worker or other resource,” says Mechaly. “Every person has different needs, and every facility meets those needs differently. It is important to find a place that, while not ‘home,’ feels the most like home so that the transition is smooth. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and ask for help. You are not in this alone.”