When home health care or assisted living is no longer an option, the family is often faced with the emotionally difficult task of choosing a nursing home.
To locate a nursing home you can feel good about, the first step to take is to start with the data. Every year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services collect data on all the Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes throughout the country, including health inspection data, staffing and quality measures. A great resource for looking up nursing homes in your community is www.medicare.gov.
Rely On Your Own Perceptions Most of All
For a decision this crucial, you also want to visit in person and note what you see, hear and smell. How does the nursing home facility make you feel? Are the staff members friendly and compassionate? Or does it seem as if you’re getting the runaround when you ask questions? Consider stopping in unannounced for an accurate observation of daily care. Then, consider scheduling a formal tour to determine whether or not you noticed any significant changes which may help guide your decision.
Be sure to ask the nursing homes you visit if they engage in person-centered care which allows residents to wake up when they want to, eat when they want to, and generally set their own schedules. Ask, too, if there is “consistent assignment”, which means that the same staff members treat the same patients each shift, which helps to eliminate errors.
Make Sure You Understand Fees and Payment Obligations
Paying for a nursing home is another huge source of stress for most families. So it’s important to know your financial obligations right from the start.
Begin by checking your insurance policy for details. Some of the facilities have sliding scale fees, generally based on family income. Be sure to ask.
If your family member is on Medicare, it’s important to choose a Medicare-certified facility that meets federal requirements for patient care and management. If the person is covered by Part A Medicare, skilled care coverage is limited to licensed professionals such as nurses, therapists or physicians, and not “custodial care”, which includes assistance with daily living activities like walking, eating, and other daily tasks. Part B Medicare includes additional services.
Medicare plans vary according to the state you live in and most require a treatment or care plan from your physician. Call your state Medicare office or call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 800-633-4227 for more information.