(WGHP) — The best time to pick a nursing home is before you need one. Ashley Marcolivio works with the Area Agency on Aging to help people navigate problems with long-term care.

“If you need care, and you can’t be in your home, let’s try to make things as best as we can,” Marcolivio said. “We don’t want anyone to ever lose any independence and to function at their highest level possible.”

To do that, start by researching nursing homes in your preferred area. It’s easy to do at Medicare.gov. You can put in a location to find and compare facilities. You’ll see a rating, and you can read inspection reports.
Next, figure out what you can afford.

“Long-term care can be very costly, and a lot of people are under the assumption that if you have insurance, it’s just going to pay for everything, and that’s truly not the case,” Marcolivio said.

Nursing homes have spaces allocated for people who receive Medicaid. Some offer payment programs based on your income.

Schedule to take a tour of the facility and make sure you talk to staff and residents, but don’t stop there.

“Then you may even want to go back at an unannounced visit and see how things may be…because you’re going to hit different staff and different residents at that time,” Marcolivio said.

You want to find the facility that meets your needs before a health crisis, but if you do find yourself or a loved one needing to go from a hospital to a long-term care facility, Elder Justice Specialist Heather Magill says it’s always your choice where you go.

“Whether it comes down to whether facilities are full, are they at capacity…if you have Medicaid, are their amount of Medicaid allotment beds full? Those are things that are going to factor into your decision on where you’re going to go. But it is a decision. It’s not just this is where you’re going. Sometimes your decisions could be smaller than others…the more resources, you have, the more options, you have,” Magill said.

No matter your resources though, your rights are protected by state law.

“Residents deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and free from abuse and neglect or exploitation, and that is your simple right,” Magill said.

Whether you are choosing an assisted living facility or need help with a problem at your current home, here are resources to get help: