When you’re a caregiver for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, deciding to hire professional care is challenging enough; the search for the right type of care can feel even more overwhelming. This step-by-step guide can help you choose the right professional care services — and find the best providers — for your loved one.
Step 1: Assess the needs and priorities of you and your loved one
How much help does your loved one need? In what areas do you and your care team need extra support? What skills and services do you consider non-negotiable for your loved one’s well-being?
Consider these factors and rank them from most to least important:
- Assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, eating, and exercising
- Medication management or other medical needs
- Laundry, light housekeeping, meal shopping, and preparation
- Getting in and out of bed or chairs or moving around the house
- Transportation to/from medical appointments, social visits, and recreational visits
- Frequency and length — daily or a few times a week; full day, half day, or hourly
Step 2: Determine what providers fit your family’s needs and priorities
There are two different types of care services:
- Skilled care services must be performed by licensed professionals, like registered nurses and licensed therapists, and social workers.
- Non-skilled care services are given under the guidance of skilled-care workers, like companions or “sitters,” certified nurse assistants (CNAs), home health and nurses’ aides, and homemaking aides.
There are four different types of providers who offer these services:
- Adult day facilities provide planned daytime programming or services to adults with higher abilities.
- In-home care through agencies or private individuals.
- Residential care facilities like assisted living centers provide care for individuals with higher abilities who need little help with the activity of living. Nursing homes offer skilled or long-term care for individuals who require 24-hour medical care and can’t live alone.
- Hospice care agencies provide 24/7 comfort and quality of life to terminally ill individuals at home, assisted living centers, nursing homes, or hospitals.
Step 3: Map out a plan to pay for your loved one’s services.
Now that you know what kind of care and provider your loved one needs, create a plan to pay for it.
- Identify the costs of care and family members that should be included in your financial plans. There are various resources available to help you organize the assets and debts your family is responsible for.
- Review insurance coverage and options. Does your loved one have private insurance? Do they have coverage through Medicare, Medicare Part D, Medigap, or Medicaid? Generally, Medicare and private insurance only cover certain types of skilled-care services, while non-skilled care services can be paid out of pocket.
- Explore other options and resources. Other financial resources may be available to help cover care costs, including:
Step 4: Do your research and contact providers.
- Use reputable resources to find providers in your area. Ask for referrals from those you trust, like your loved one’s healthcare providers, other caregivers, and local senior centers. Utilize agencies, organizations, and local chapters of related associations.
- Contact providers. Describe your situation, and explain what you would like from a care service. Ask questions regarding qualifications, types of services offered, cost, and hours of availability. Prepare to provide them with your loved one’s name, their physician’s name and number, diagnoses, other health and behavioral care needs, and insurance coverage.
- Narrow down to the top 2-3 providers. Consider the list of needs and priorities you made in Step 1 and your financial plan in Step 3. Decide which of the most recommended providers best fits what you’re looking for and can afford.
Step 5: Schedule visits with each of your top providers.
When planning visits with the providers you identified in Step 4, consider these tips:
- Include your loved one when possible. This allows you to see how they interact with the care providers and keeps them involved in the process.
- Bring another family member or caregiver to provide input and offer a second opinion. If your loved one joins, they can help keep them engaged as you speak with the care providers.
- Keep your checklists and notes handy to reference them throughout the visit to ensure you’re asking the right questions. Be ready to describe your loved one’s current needs, personality, and behaviors.
- Ask to see the provider’s important documents, including current licenses, certificates, accreditation, inspection reports, and client surveys. You should also request a sample contract that an attorney can review before you or your loved one sign it.
Step 6: Choose the best provider for your loved one.
- Consult wisely. Debrief immediately after each visit with a family member or caregiver. Refer to your notes, share your thoughts, and spend some time making pros and cons lists. If they are well enough, involve your loved one in making the final decision.
- Check references. Ask for each provider’s previous employer. Reach out to our loved one’s care providers, other caregivers, and those you turned to for referrals in Step 4.
- Choose carefully. You may be eager to begin care services as quickly as possible, but carefully consider the provider that best suits the needs and priorities outlined in Step 1. Go with the provider with whom you and your loved one have the best connection.
- Ask for a trial period. Ask the provider if there is a trial period before you sign the contract. Use that opportunity to see how the providers interact with your loved one and whether or not they like it. Try day services for an hour or two to ease into the new arrangement. If it’s an assisted living facility or nursing home, ask if your loved one can try it out for an overnight visit.
Step 7: Manage and monitor your loved one’s care
Now, you must ensure your choice remains the best choice for your loved one’s care and your family’s needs. Regularly evaluate the performance of both the provider and the direct care workers. If this provider is no longer supporting the needs of you and your loved one, find a different provider that can better meet your specific requirements.
- Make a list of the current services that the current provider can no longer offer, then revisit your list of providers from Step 4 and compare it with other options.
- Don’t hesitate to contact your trusted resources for more referrals and guidance.