The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that nearly 70% of Americans turning age 65 will need long-term care during their lifetimes, which makes the staggering cost of nursing home care even more alarming. According to the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey, the national median rate for a private room in a nursing home is $250 per day, which amounts to $91,250 a year. These figures represent a 4.17% increase over 2014.
Even those residents who are willing to settle for semi-private rooms can expect astronomical costs. The national median daily rate for a semi-private nursing home room is $220, or $80,300 a year for 2015, which represents a 3.77% increase in cost over the previous year.
Why Are Nursing Home Costs So High?
As discussed in a CNN Money article, there are a number of factors driving nursing home costs up, according to Bob Bua, vice president of Genworth. Those factors include increasing costs of insurance, food, labor, building maintenance, etc., which are being passed along to the residents.
Staffing costs for nursing homes can be high, because many residents need assistance with activities of daily living, including bathing, feeding, transferring, and toileting. According to a Columbus Dispatch article, industry officials have defended their prices, stating that the daily cost of a semi-private nursing home room is comparable to that of a nice hotel room. The prices may be comparable, but who can afford the cost of a staying in nice hotel room every day?
How Do People Pay Nursing Home Costs?
According to AARP, approximately one-third of all nursing home residents pay the costs out of their own funds, which are often depleted in as little as six months. Approximately 5% have long-term care insurance, which covers nursing home and other types of extended care. Medicare covers short-term nursing home stays, as reported by AARP.
For those who have no long-term care insurance, after personal funds have run out, Medicaid picks up the bill for long-term nursing home care. As stated by AARP, Medicaid covers the cost for about two-thirds of all nursing home residents. However, Medicaid is a federal and state funded program for low-income people and only available to those who have used up their resources. According to AARP, Medicaid will allow the spouses of people in nursing homes to keep their homes and some of their assets.
Alternatives to Nursing Home Care
As covered in the CNN Money article, assisted living facilities are a less expensive alternative, although they do not offer the same level of care as nursing homes. The national median monthly rate for assisted living, as reported by Genworth, is $3,600. Another alternative that manly elderly Americans are choosing is at-home care with homemakers and health aids. The national median rate reported by Genworth for this type of care is $20 per hour.
In 2013, there were 4,735 traffic-related pedestrian deaths in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the likelihood of a pedestrian being killed or injured by a vehicle increases with age. In fact, pedestrians aged 65 and over account for an estimated 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths. Given this information, it’s clear that our older population must remain diligent and aware when they are out and about. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe as a pedestrian.
Pay Attention and Communicate With Drivers
It is easy to become distracted by your surroundings when you are out for a walk. In fact, many of us go for a walk for the purpose of enjoying the scenery. However, as a pedestrian, it is incumbent upon you to remain aware of traffic, especially when you are trying to cross the street. You may think the driver of the vehicle sees you but, unless you make eye contact, or are otherwise signaled by the driver, you cannot know for sure. In order to ensure that you don’t become one of the more than 9 distracted driving fatalities reported in the Unites States every day, keep your head up, remain aware, and communicate with drivers before crossing the street.
It may be inconvenient and less physically taxing to cross the street in the middle of the block, but it is not safe. Crosswalks offer more visibility for pedestrians, and they are significantly safer to use. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, in 2012, 68 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in the 65 and over age group occurred at non-intersection locations. If a crosswalk is unavailable, cross the street at a corner. A car accident can easily kill a pedestrian, even in busy areas where vehicles are driving slowly. In fact, according to the NIH, 43 percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2013 occurred in the most populous states: California, Florida, Texas, and New York. But, it was Florida and Delaware which had the highest pedestrian fatality rate, at 3 deaths for every 100,000 residents. So, stay visible to drivers by utilizing crosswalks, or crossing at street corners, regardless of traffic speed and flow. The extra effort is definitely worth the trouble.
Even though you may be crossing the street at the corner, or by using the designated crosswalk, you must still obey traffic signals, just as drivers are required to do. If the street you are attempting to cross has a crosswalk signal, use it. Only enter the crosswalk once you are certain drivers have seen you, and if the crosswalk signal indicates you can cross. Do not begin to cross the street after the pedestrian signal begins to flash, however. That is akin to a driver’s yellow light, so you should stop and wait until the signal changes again signifying that it is safe to cross. Otherwise, you may not make it across the street before the traffic signals change, and you could be caught in cross traffic.
Senior pedestrians have a higher risk of injury and death than most age groups. Seniors can be a bit slower in their movements and, as we age, our senses, including vision and hearing, can diminish. However, by remaining aware of drivers, and ensuring they are aware of you, and by properly utilizing crosswalks, corners, and traffic signals, you can dramatically lower your risk of being injured or killed by a vehicle.
Nursing homes are a valuable service available for aging individuals who are no longer able to live alone. While some families move a loved one into their own home, often times a nursing home is the best option.
Choosing the right facility can be an overwhelming, stressful, and emotional experience, particularly knowing that seniors are a vulnerable demographic, at risk for elder abuse. By carefully weighing your options and doing research, you can help keep your loved one safe. When choosing a nursing home, consider the following during your search:
Level of Care Needed
The right type of nursing home facility greatly depends on a senior’s health. If your loved one has health concerns such as memory loss or limited mobility, a nursing home that runs more like a hospital may be a better fit. Such facilities often have specialized units devoted to memory issues like Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
If a senior does well on their own, but is still unable to live alone, they may be happiest in a facility that has more of a residential atmosphere, offering assistance and encouraging independence. While it may be difficult to decide what level of care is needed, as you and your loved one may have differing opinions, it’s a good idea to meet with a medical professional for an opinion.
Touring Nursing Homes
Once you have determined the appropriate level of care needed for your senior, you should start visiting nursing homes. Just like house hunting, this can be a long and arduous process, but try to take your time and keep your priorities in mind; the wellbeing of your loved one. When searching for nursing home facilities, it’s a good to ask for recommendations in your community, such as family and friends or even medical professionals.
Once you have a list of places to visit, do some research and read reviews before you visit. While this may or may not influence your first visit, it will help you to take notice of certain things. When touring a nursing home for the first time, pay attention to the following:
- Follow Your Senses: What do you hear, see, or smell? Are any of the things you are witnessing unpleasant or disturbing? Follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, make note of that. If you notice any signs of elder abuse,
- Ask Questions: It’s your responsibility to ask questions. Although you may feel overwhelmed by all the information given to you at one time, you should have a list of questions made out ahead of time. If you witness anything strange, don’t disregard it. Ask someone and see how they answer. If they seem to be covering something up with an excuse, it may be a red flag.
- Observe Staff Relations: Without being too intrusive, observe the way that staff treats one another as well as residents. Are they respectful? Patient? Kind?
- Visit Again: If you have found a place you think is suitable for your loved one, visit the facility again. Take note of the same things and observe any changes. As you would with any new home, chances are you would visit more than once.
Talk to Your Loved One
One of the most important things to consider, is your loved one’s opinion. Depending on his or her mental, physical, and emotional health, it may be difficult for him or her to communicate true feelings. Moving into a new place can be an emotional experience for anyone. Try to consider their feelings before making a final decision. Choosing the right nursing home is vital to enjoying the next stage in your senior’s life.