For most of your life one or both of your parents was there to help you with anything from learning to drive, moving into the dorm room, doing yard work at your first home, and babysitting your children so you could have an evening alone with your spouse. All of these things were done, not out of obligation, but out of unconditional love and desire to make your life easier.
You’ve spent your life wondering how you could repay them for all they have done and now, decades later, is the time when your help is needed to keep them safe and healthy.
In a society where millions of elders fall victim to elder abuse every year, it is important to do everything you can to keep your elderly parent safe, particularly if he or she moves into a nursing home facility.
The Next Stage in Life: Nursing Home
When a parent becomes elderly, there are many tough and delicate decisions to be made. One of the most common and challenging decisions is choosing the right nursing home. Depending on the level of care that is required for your parent, there are several options, making the decision even more difficult. It’s a big task, but it’s up to you to select (or help your parent choose) a nursing home that will keep them safe, happy, and healthy well into their final years.
- Discuss Early: Ideally, when your parent reaches a point that he or she can no longer live alone or without assistance, there is already a plan set in place. Some aging adults choose a facility or share their plan with a trusted one long before they need to move. Unfortunately, many elders don’t have a say in where they move to or are unable to make a concise decision.
If you are able, initiate a discussion with your parents. They may not want to talk about it, but let them know you want to do the right thing when the time comes.
- Research and Explore: When it comes to nursing home facilities there are several options. The best thing you can do is ask friends and family about any experiences they may have, read reviews about places, and visit several facilities before making a solid decision about which nursing home may be the best.
- Pay Attention to Detail: When you take a tour of a nursing home facility, you will most likely be taking the standard, looks-like-the-brochure guided tour. That’s not to say that the tour is deceptive in anyway, but you may want to visit a couple of times to get a real feel for the place. In addition to having more than one visit, ask lots of questions, make a nursing home checklist, keep track of the answers, and pay close attention to the way that residents are treated, how they look, and their general demeanor.
- Any Red Flags?: In addition to observing residents, take note of the facility itself. Is it clean? In good condition? Does it seem safe? If the place seems dangerous or if the residents exhibit signs of elder abuse, this facility should be taken off of your list of options and reported to an adult protective services agency.
When choosing a nursing home facility for your elderly parent, don’t rush to make any decisions. This move requires careful consideration as the safety and overall well-being of your parent could be at stake.
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.
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.