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Finding a Home for Dad

Hi Everyone!  This is AARP Illinois staffer Heather Heppner with a few tidbits of advice based on my own caregiving experience.  Enjoy!


In 2010, at the ripe old age of 28, I became a caregiver for my father.  Now, I'd like to think I was a bit ahead of the caregiving curve.  I mean, I had worked in the field of "aging" for several years and was already fairly familiar with the resources available to assist caregivers.  I knew the difference between CCRCs, SNFs, ICFs, SLFs and ALs and could list all of the ADLs and IADLs.  *Yes, those of us that work in the field undergo extensive acronym training (see below if you have no clue what the letters above actually stand for).

Despite all of my knowledge, I realized that I still felt like a fish out of water now that I was the caregiver and the care recipient was my father (sidenote: I'm guessing this is also why surgeons don't operate on their own family members).  In fairly short order, I had to figure out where my father was going to live since "home" was not an option anymore.  I had tried home care, but his needs exceeded what could be provided at home.  So, where did I start?  I started "shopping" online:

  • Nursing Home Compare:  Nursing Home Compare is a great website that contains detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country.  I recommend starting here if you need to find a facility for your loved one.  It's like the "Yelp" or "Angie's List" of nursing homes and provides information that will help you decide which facilities you want to investigate further (and which ones to avoid).
 After "shopping," I made a list of potential facilities, and moved on to the "interview" process:

After "shopping," I made a list of potential facilities, and moved on to the "interview" process:

  • Nursing Home Checklist:  Visit SEVERAL nursing homes and take a checklist of questions to ask each one.  Make an appointment and tour the facility with a staff member.  Use your senses (literally - sight, sound, smell).  And trust your gut.


Last, but certainly not least, I checked "references":

  • Long Term Care Ombudsman:  The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program exists to promote and protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Staff and volunteer ombudsman visit  every Medicare and Medicaid-certified facility in the state on a regular basis.  While they cannot recommend one home over another, they can help you navigate the process of finding a nursing home and can provide additional resources to help you make your decision.


The decision to place your loved one in a facility is not an easy one, but there are people and organizations that can help you through the process......use them.  Even if you think you know everything (like I did), an outsider's perspective can make a huge difference.

One final editorial comment from a young caregiver......if you've never considered long term care insurance, start considering it.  My father invested in a policy at age 63.  At age 68, he had to move into a nursing home.  That was not part of anyone's plan - but it happened.  And his foresight in getting that insurance policy has been a financial lifesaver for me as a caregiver.

Until next time.....


CCRC: Continuing Care Retirement Community

SNF: Skilled Nursing Facility

ICF: Independent Care Facility

ALF: Assisted Living Facility

SLF: Supportive Living Facility

ADL: Activities of Daily Living

IADL: Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

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