How to Choose a Nursing Home

Nursing home

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Choosing the right nursing home

Finding a nursing home can be an intimidating process. It is not only the start of a new chapter in your life, but it also means admitting that you need a little help as you age, which can be difficult for some.

Choosing a nursing home that is right for you, however, is straightforward.

What is a nursing home?

A nursing home is for those who need care 24/7. While most residents remain in the nursing home permanently, some residents may only use the service for short-term rehabilitation after a stay in the hospital.

Residents have access to therapies for physical, occupational, respiratory, and speech difficulties and will often have use of common areas to share meals or participate in activities together. These activities tend to be limited to low-intensity things such as cooking, choir, and educational courses rather than physical and social activities that one might find in an assisted living facility.

Finding a nursing home that is right for you

BODY: Like anything in life, being prepared for the unexpected is vital. While you may not end up needing a nursing home before your death, there is a possibility that you will. So, before you are admitted into one for the long term, you need to make your choices about the type of facility you would prefer.

Explore the reputation of nursing homes

There are a variety of government, non-profit, and independent websites that list and rank nursing homes based on different criteria. Some of these recommendations can go into a lot of detail, but all you need to focus on is the star rating. Anything below four stars is likely not worth your time.

When you’ve narrowed down your search to several well-rated facilities, that’s when you can start delving into details and whether the facility offers what you are desire. Don’t waste your time by reading through low-rated nursing homes.

Be on the lookout for red flags as well. Some facilities may have a history of violating state regulations, which could range from minor occurrences such as a cobweb in a closet to serious ones such as a resident wandering off-site. If you come across some of these violations, but you are still interested in the facility, make sure you discuss with the administrator what has been done since then to ensure it never happens again.

However, another red flag is being unable to speak with that administrator. If they are unable to set aside time to meet with you, there may be bigger things going on that tell you everyone is far too overworked. This will affect the care that you receive as a resident.

Finally, if you have a bad feeling about the nursing home, even if you are unable to identify why, it’s a good idea to stay clear. You’re likely noticing something subconsciously that you’re not able to put your finger on, which could range from cleanliness to the treatment residents receive. Don’t ignore any negative feelings associated with a facility.

Check your coverage

Do you have Medicare? Medicaid? Both? Or are you covered by a different insurance company altogether? It’s important to understand what your insurance will cover and what it will not. Medicare, for example, covers short-term nursing home stays after you have been hospitalized, but it will not cover long-term care. This means that the plans you make might be based on hospitalization in the future unless you’re paying out of pocket.

Ideally, investing in long-term care insurance is going to benefit you most in the long run. A semi-private room in a nursing home can cost over $90,000 per year, so you must be able to cover this cost for a sustained amount of time. Good coverage will also mean more nursing home choices for you.

If you do not have coverage for Medicare or Medicaid once you become a resident at a nursing home, the nursing home is required to provide you with information on how to apply and use those benefits. All information must be accessible to you in a language and layout that you understand. They will also help you receive refunds on previously made payments once you have coverage. So, don’t worry too much if you are admitted to a nursing home without these types of coverage.

Visit different facilities

If your wellbeing is paramount, visit local facilities that are close to family and friends. It makes a difference if you have people who can visit regularly and offer you help when needed.

Visiting the facilities can give you an insight into what life is like for its residents. What do the residents look like when you visit? Are they well-groomed? Is the center calm or chaotic? How do the staff interact with the residents? Do they know their names, or are they just another face?

Going to a nursing home in person also allows you to see the rooms and common areas for yourself. Look at the types of activities offered. How big are the rooms? If your long-term care insurance will only cover semi-private rooms, what do they look like? Will the activities be something that you enjoy? If you can see them taking place, all the better!

Using this opportunity can narrow down the nursing homes you and your family see as acceptable for you. Failing to do this while you are able may mean that you end up in a home that does not meet your needs and interests.

Reviewing the contract

When you have decided on your nursing home and are ready to move forward, you will receive a contract to review. It is beneficial to read through the contract carefully to ensure that your needs are met. Look for:

– Your rights and requirements. These include how safeguarding you and other nursing home residents might impact your family, as well as procedures once you pass;

– The payments that you or your loved ones must pay. If your insurance is covering all or part of the payments, the contract will outline this;

– The facility’s policy on reserving a bed if you should need to leave for hospitalization or vacation with your family. Ensure that you will have a bed upon your return.

Even before you make your decision, you can ask for a contract in advance so that you have more time to ponder. You will then have time to ask for additional advice or compile a list of questions you can ask the care facility. It is also wise to discuss the contract with a lawyer before taking the plunge. They will be able to identify any requirements that may not be in your best interest.

If you come across something that you would like to amend, you can ask the nursing home representative about this. You and the representative must initial each change.

Take your time to discuss everything in detail before signing on the dotted line.

What comes next?

Once you have chosen your nursing home and signed your contract, you will need to provide the facility with information that includes your insurance information, medical history, current health status, health care providers, and emergency contacts. Facilities invested in your care need to know how they can best assist you. Some of the information may seem invasive, but you have done your due diligence and should now feel that you can trust the facility.

You may also wish to have a health care advance directive created in preparation for your time in the nursing home. It consists of a living will and a power of attorney for health care if either is needed; tailoring this to the nursing home experience, including rights and actions, would be ideal.

Whether you’re using a lawyer who specializes in nursing home care or using the help of your family or friends, ensure that you have good access to finances that you can use – this can be set up and managed by the nursing home. Ask the facility about this in advance.

The nursing home will create a health care plan for you, which will be based on your contract and needs in both a medical and non-medical capacity, and then you will become an official resident, settling into a new and supported routine.