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Five things to consider when choosing a nursing home

by Shannon Lee

Choosing a nursing home can be a difficult decision. Knowing where to begin can make that tough decision much easier. Here are five things to consider when choosing a nursing home.

Making the choice to turn to nursing home care can be heart-wrenching--and choosing between nursing homes can be frustrating. But it is one of the most important choices you can make for your loved one, so take your time to ensure your choice is the best one possible.

What is Nursing Home Care?

Nursing homes, often called Skilled Nursing Facilities, provide round-the-clock care for those whose conditions require nursing care, but don't call for the intensive care of a hospital setting. In addition to medical care, nursing homes provide custodial care, or help with day-to-day activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating.

When to Choose Nursing Home Care

Skilled nursing facilities are available for long-term care and short-term care. For patients who are recovering from an illness or injury, nursing homes can provide short term care until the patient is ready to go home. Long-term care is meant for those with more serious medical issues. Either way, admission to a nursing home traditionally requires a doctor's order.

Five Considerations When Choosing a Nursing Home

Choosing a nursing home is not an easy task, and you might not know where to begin. If you're unsure, it's always best to start with the basics:

  • What Does Your Loved One Need? Talk to their physician about what kind of care is required. How long they be in the nursing home? What can they do for themselves? How intense are their medical needs? For instance, caring for a patient with diabetes is very different than dealing with an Alzheimer's patient. What skilled nursing facilities can meet those health care goals?
  • What Can You Afford? A few weeks or months of short-term care might be covered by Medicare, but long-term care may not be. Medicaid and private insurance might pay some of the costs, but quite a bit of the financial burden could fall on the family. If you aren't sure what you can afford, talk to a financial advisor.
  • Choose Nursing Homes to Visit. Narrow down the nursing homes in your area that meet your specific requirements, and then dive into research. Read the inspection reports for every facility you are considering. If your loved one is capable of making their own decisions, discuss the nursing home options with them and listen to their opinion.
  • Visit the Nursing Homes. Plan to see the nursing homes you have selected. Talk to the administrators, speak to the staff, and say hello to the residents. Ask to see the private areas as well as the public ones. Arrive with a checklist of questions to ask, and don't accept vague or delayed answers.
  • Compare Notes. Sit down with your loved one and look at the information you have gathered about each nursing home. Include inspection reports, and consider doing a litigation search as well. Once you have the answers you need, you can make an informed decision.

Choosing the Best Skilled Nursing Facility

The best nursing home will offer not only medical and custodial care, but peace of mind as well. Take your time in researching facilities in order to make the best decision for your loved one.