Q: I need to place a family member in a care facility. Do you have any suggestions on how I should start my search?

A: Finding the appropriate facility takes time and effort. But spending this time early in the process makes the transition to a care facility much easier for the entire family.

First, determine how many facilities are in your area. This can be achieved in a number of ways. A list of facilities in Ventura County is available by calling the Long Term Care Ombudsman at 656-1986. You can also learn of appropriate facilities through hospital discharge planners, social workers, physicians who serve the elderly and volunteer organizations that work with the elderly or chronically ill. The Senior Advocate’s office is also a good resource center.

Next, narrow that list by eliminating facilities that do not meet your specific requirements. If you will be depending on MediCal for financial assistance, make certain the facility accepts that type of payment. If you expect an HMO to cover the costs, check to see if the facility has a contract with your particular HMO.

Does your family have specific religious or cultural preferences? If yes, check with the facility to determine if they provide the type of environment required. Are there special medical conditions or dementia? If so make sure the facility is capable of meeting these special circumstances.

Location is an important factor. If you have a choice, select a facility that can be easily visited. Frequent visits are the best way to make sure your loved one does well. Transition to this new environment is made easier for all concerned when visits can be made easily and frequently.

After you have narrowed your list you are ready to start visiting the facilities. Always call and schedule a visit to ensure that a staff person who can answer questions will be available. Good luck in your search.

Q: I have been talking with friends about the cost of nursing home care. There is a difference of opinion as to how these costs can be covered. Can you shed some light?

A: Nursing home care is expensive and for most people finding ways to finance it is a major concern.

About half of all nursing home residents start out by paying nursing home costs out of their personal resources. As their personal resources are reduced those who have long stays eventually become eligible for MediCal assistance. MediCal is a state and federal program that will pay most nursing home costs for patients with very limited income and assets. MediCal will, however, only cover the costs of nursing home care in a facility that is MediCal certified.

Many incorrectly believe that Medicare and supplemental insurance will cover the costs of nursing home care. Under certain limited conditions Medicare will pay for some nursing home costs for beneficiaries who need skilled care and/or physical or speech therapy. To be covered you must meet strict qualifications and even then the coverage is for a very limited time. Medicare never covers custodial care in a nursing home.

Long-term care insurance is a private insurance that can be purchased to cover care in a nursing facility. Plans and premiums vary widely and generally only relatively healthy people qualify for policies.

In addition some may have these costs covered or partially covered by managed-care plans or employer benefit packages.

HAPPENINGS:

Sunday: Community Garage Sale, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. For information call 381-2744.

April 15: 1:30-3 p.m. “Do You Know How Volunteering Helps Your Community” seminar, 1:30-3 p.m. at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village. For information call 495-6250.

April 17: Senior Scam Stopper seminar, 3-4:30 p.m. at Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks. For information and reservations call Assembly member Jacqui Irwin’s office at 482-1904.

April 28: Empowered Caregiver Series seminar, “The Importance of Self Care,” 5:30-7 p.m. at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. For reservations call 497-0189

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