Elderly people and their families can spend months—sometimes years—looking for the perfect long-term care living arrangement. Most families try to avoid the nursing home option to the very end, believing that assisted living or small residential care homes provide a better quality of life. But is this fact or fiction?
Paula Span in her article on the NY Times New Old Age Blog suggests that “what variety of facility an older person lives in may matter less than we’ve assumed. And that the characteristics adult children look for when they begin the search aren’t necessarily what makes a difference to the people who move in.”
Span’s suggestion is based on (among other things) a recent study published in The Journal of Applied Gerontology, which found that among 150 Connecticut residents living in various long-term care situations (assisted living, nursing homes, residential care homes), the type of living situation itself made little difference in the resident’s emotional well-being. Rather, happiness and contentment was more a matter of “the characteristics of the specific environment they’re in, combined with their own personal characteristics — how healthy they feel they are, their age and marital status.”
Logically enough, a resident of a long-term care facility of any kind is more likely to report satisfaction and comfort if they had a hand in choosing their living situation, if they were part of the decision making process. In fact, it is the process itself—researching options, visiting facilities, considering current and future social and physical needs and how they will be met—that is the beginning of acclimatization.
Whatever your choice, you’ll want to know that you have options for paying for your long-term care living situation. Medicare.gov has published a chart summarizing and comparing the various options for long-term care financing. We find that the chart falls short, however, in the way it outlines the features of “Medicaid”, called Medi-Cal in California, as it does not address planning options that are currently available to qualify for the subsidy and protect your home and other assets. For more on this topic, see our “Consumer’s Guide to Medi-Cal Planning”.