Nursing homes are for people who need extensive and extended health or personal care. Many people live in nursing homes unnecessarily because they thought they had no other alternatives. Nursing homes are intended only for those who are seriously ill--not for people who feel they have no other options.
There are two levels of care:
Skilled Nursing--is for persons who need intensive care, 24 hour-a-day supervision, and treatment by a registered nurse under the direction of a physician.
Nursing Facility--is for persons who need 24 hour-a-day supervision under the direction of a registered nurse and a physician.
The level of care required is determined by a person`s physician. In addition, many States require and conduct pre-screening of potential nursing home residents to determine the level of care needed. Your parent`s local social service agency or the admissions person at any nursing home can direct you to the agency that makes this determination.
There are about 20,000 nursing homes in the United States, serving about 5 percent of the older population. The chances are about one in four that an individual will need to reside in a nursing home at some time in his or her life. The cost for staying for one year in a nursing home generally ranges between $20,000 and $48,000. Medicare and private medigap insurance plans reimburse very little of the cost. An extended stay in a nursing home can wipe out a family`s savings, so advance planning for this eventuality is critical. Only when a nursing home patient becomes impoverished, does Medicaid begin to pay the cost of nursing home care.
Before entering a nursing home, ask yourself:
To help you in selecting the right nursing home for your parent, consider contacting the local ombudsman. The ombudsman program is a significant part of the nursing home system. Federal law requires each State Agency on Aging to have an Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and more than 500 local ombudsman programs now exist nationwide.
These offices provide help and information to older Americans, their families, and friends regarding long-term care facilities. The local ombudsman also can help to ensure that your parent receives good care throughout his or her stay. Keep in mind that the ombudsman cannot advise you on one particular nursing home, but will supply current information regarding nursing homes near you or your parent.
Ombudsman functions include:
Visiting nursing homes on a regular basis;
Refer to Resource and Referral Services for a list of State long-term care ombudsman offices.
Refer to Practical Tips for Elder Care for a list of helpful suggestions and a checklist that can be used when you visit nursing homes.
Nursing Home Telephone Interview
Once you identify what you want and need in a home, simply telephoning some of the nursing homes on your list may eliminate the need to visit them. Some of the key questions that you may ask over the phone to facilities are:
People To Talk To
Housing and Nursing Home Resources
A number of resources are available that may be of help when considering housing options.
Write to AARP to obtain a free copy of the following publications. Include the title and publication number.
AARP Fact Sheets on Nursing Homes:
Write to the American Association of Homes for the Aging to receive a copy of the following publications:
American Association of Homes for
Write to Department of Health and Human Services at:
HHS - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
For a free copy of
With the exception of the Nursing Home Telephone Interview information, the housing alternative information was borrowed from two AARP publications, Tomorrow`s Choices and Nursing Home Life: A Guide For Residents and Families, and is reprinted here with permission from AARP.