Compile a list of potential facilities to consider using the criteria that personally seem most important.
Phone the facilities on your list and briefly explain the essentials you seek. Find out whether the facility can take on new residents or if there is a waiting list. Also ask whether it will be able to meet any specific needs you have identified.
Costs. Overall charges vary depending on the resident’s needs, services provided, and the type and location of the facility. Some require a pre-admission fee in addition to monthly charges. Ask what additional charges and fees you should expect, to avoid future surprises. Some key questions:
- What is the base price? What does it include?
- Is there a pre-admission fee?
- What services require additional fees?
- Under what circumstances could rates be increased?
Basic documents and policies. If a particular facility seems promising, ask for copies of descriptive brochures, admission policies, admission contract, and the resident’s rights policy. You may also want to get details about issues that are potential sticking points, including the facility’s policy for holding a bed if a resident requires hospitalization.
Information from licensing. The California Department of Social Services licenses and monitors most residential care facilities in the state, but unfortunately, not much of the information it collects is made public in an easy-to-use format.
For facilities you are seriously considering, make an appointment to review the public file held at the local office of the Community Care Licensing Division. Pay close attention to:
- The most recent inspection report
- Complaints within the past two to three years, especially any abuse allegations or charges of resident rights abuses
- The facility’s Plan of Operation, especially the section that deals with special services offered, such as dementia care or activities
- The Advisory Notes, or written consultation provided by the licensing evaluator to the facility, which do not amount to formal charges, but sometimes offer insight into the overall pattern of a facility’s management and operating practices
Visiting the Facilities
Ask to meet with the facility’s administrator and admissions director; request that one of them give you a tour and answer questions. Visit all the places on your list to compare how they look and feel, paying special attention to the quality of care provided, the residents’ quality of life, and how the staff seems to interact with residents. The best time to visit for the first time is on a weekday in the late morning or middle of the day to see whether residents have adequate care and activities outside of scheduled mealtimes.
Use the comprehensive checklist “Evaluating a Care Facility” to help structure the questions you ask and the things you observe while at the facilities.
Potential residents should also tour a facility before signing on for care there, both to help determine whether the place is comfortable and to begin the process of getting familiar with the new surroundings.
If you have any lingering concerns, consider discussing them with the ombudsman, a trained, impartial individual who advocates for residents. Contact the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.