Nursing Homes

Going into a nursing home is a big decision to make. Once you find that you’re considering it, following are some actions you might take to perform the careful, thorough and due diligence a choice of this magnitude requires.

Selecting a Nursing Home

The first step to consider is what you need from the nursing home.  For example, whether you need medical assistance on a constant basis or if you just need help with personal care (shopping, laundry, cleaning or cooking) will make a difference in the type of facility you choose.

You also may want to take advantage of services and programs like:

  • Adult day care
  • Meal programs
  • Senior centers
  • Legal and financial assistance
  • Senior activities

Another question to ask yourself is how do you want to live? Assisted living might be a good choice if you want your own room or apartment within a facility that provides a modicum of daily activity (like bathing or dressing) assistance.

Once you’ve determined your needs, then it’s time to decide where you want to reside. Factors in your decision might be that you want to stay close to your children, community and friends.

After you determine where you want to stay, collect information on the nursing homes in your area of choice:

  • Ask trusted members of your circle including friends, clergy, and family.
  • Contact the social service agency in your area and speak with someone who can assist in finding an appropriate facility for you
  • Ask medical personnel for nursing home recommendations. Often doctors and hospitals work with nursing homes. If so, they might be able to provide you with some insight.

The Yellow Pages can also be a good source of information.

Use a variety of sources to compare nursing homes. This includes state agencies and the local office of consumer affairs for your area. Check out licensing, accreditations, certification, quality of staff and the services offered at each facility.

Once you’ve made a list, see the nursing homes in person or ask someone you know to visit them. When onsite, perform your due diligence such as:

  • Ask every question you can think of
  • Understand the fees
  • Obtain references
  • Talk to residents and their families
  • Take a thorough tour of the facility

In fact, it’s a good idea to create a checklist to use during visits so you don’t miss anything.

Arranging for Nursing Home Care

Once you’ve chosen a nursing home, prepare the following information prior to admission:

  • Information concerning your health care coverage including the insurance company and contact information
  • Your medical history and current health status such as any ongoing or new health issues, surgeries, allergies and treatments you may have received or may be receiving
  • A list of medications
  • A list of emergency contacts
  • A will
  • A health care power of attorney

You can obtain all of the admission requirements you need to fulfill from the nursing home staff.

Paying for Nursing Home Care

As part of your due diligence, it’s important to do a thorough financial review of all the possible nursing home funding sources you have. Some of these may be:

  • Medicaid- Medicaid pays for about seven out of ten nursing home residents so check out the requirements for this funding source
  • Personal Funds- You may be able use 401k, other savings or receive help from family members
  • Insurance- Long term insurance may pay for part of the costs
  • Medicare- Medicare, which is a health insurance program for those aged 65 or older, may be able to help pay for prescription drugs

Your Care Plan in the Nursing Home

One of the functions of the nursing home staff is to take your healthcare information and prepare a care plan using you and your family’s input. This important plan provides documentation and helps make sure your health care needs are met. A thorough plan can make the difference between a comfortable and not so comfortable stay in a nursing home.

Your care plan could include your:

  • Dietary needs
  • Health care objectives
  • Need for equipment or special medical devices (such as a wheelchair or oxygen)
  • Necessary personal care needs (bathing, shopping, etc.)
  • Dependency on the appropriate staff to administer the plan
  • Service timetable

For a comprehensive look at nursing homes, read the Medicare and Medicaid published Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home at