The Long and Winding Road: Staying Well in Long-Term Care

The statistics are compelling. In our lifetimes, seven out of 10 of us over the age of 65 will require some form of long-term care (LTC) services.

“The term ‘long-term care’ covers considerable ground,” says Angela Norris, senior vice president of business development at StoneGate Senior Living – a leading provider of senior living services in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. “It refers to a variety of services that help meet the needs of people living with a disability or chronic illness who cannot care for themselves. LTC is focused on personal care and coordinated services that meet residents’ medical and nonmedical needs over an extended time – weeks, months, and often years.”

Managing care

“Some who need long-term care may be able to receive it at home through a family caregiver or home health service provider,” Norris notes. “Others may require the level of supervised care provided by an LTC community.”

For those who need help with activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, or dressing – along with basic health care and medication assistance – the best choice for LTC may be an assisted living community. “These communities promote self-sufficiency and strive to offer residents a high level of independence in a home-like setting,” Norris says. “They’re considered the intermediate step between independent living and skilled nursing.”

For residents with a serious disability or an ongoing chronic health condition, a skilled nursing facility is likely the best choice for long-term care. “In a skilled nursing center, licensed and trained nursing professionals provide round-the-clock care,” Norris explains. “A doctor is on call, and staff are prepared to transfer residents to the hospital in an emergency that cannot be safely managed in-house.

“Whatever our residents’ needs, from simple to complex, we strive to help them make the most of their abilities. Quality of life is always the focus.”

 Making decisions

Prospects for wellness hinge on selecting the right LTC provider. “It’s important to consider care options before a crisis occurs,” Norris says. “We encourage families to have a plan in place long before services are needed.”

Quality of care can vary greatly from one LTC provider to the next. Five-star quality ratings, provided by the federal government, are a starting point for comparing LTC facilities. From there, patients and their families need to carefully assess the options, identifying each care provider’s strengths, weaknesses, and suitability for a long-term care relationship.

Norris offers these tips for choosing the right LTC community:

  • Consider location. Is the facility close enough so that family, friends, and the resident’s personal doctor can visit?
  • Experience a day in the life. Tour the community. Talk to residents, family, and staff. Is the facility clean, pleasant, and thoughtfully designed? Are residents participating in activities? Do they seem to enjoy meals? Is help provided for those who cannot eat on their own? Is staff friendly, engaged, and knowledgeable?
  • Check the facility’s track record. All skilled nursing facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid are visited at least annually by an inspection team. Inspectors assess the care provided and issue a report on their findings, which the facility is required to post. Talk with the community’s administrator to discuss any problems cited in the report and how they are being corrected.
  • Find out how medical care is provided. What kinds of care plans are in place? Which hospitals does the community use? Make sure that the staff is highly experienced in treating the condition your loved one is living with.
  • Evaluate your financial resources. Determine what insurance covers and what you will need to pay for. Consulting with a financial advisor who specializes in elder care to weigh your options is an essential first step in LTC planning.

Maximizing whole-person care

Whatever the level of care needed, the key to living well in long-term care is synchronized, holistic care – delivered by a care team that engages residents in all aspects of their well-being.

“Although LTC residents have medical challenges, long-term care is much more than addressing the needs of the body,” Norris says. “In our LTC communities, we look at the needs of the whole person – physical, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and spiritual.” Many StoneGate facilities have partnered with Lifetime Wellness, a company providing person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to LTC and other senior care communities.

“In all our LTC communities, our goal is not only providing vigilant care but also inspiring residents to move forward on what is often a long and winding road,” Norris says. “Hour by hour, day by day, we offer each person in our care the tools, resources, and motivation to experience – step by step – the best quality of life.”