All too often, the search for skilled nursing care becomes a scramble after a bad fall or when health needs suddenly increase. It’s an unfortunate situation – and more common than you might realize. You would never move into a new house without taking a peek and inspecting it, so why would you consider choosing skilled nursing care without careful research? If you have reason to believe you may need skilled nursing care in the near future, you can begin to put a plan in place now. Here’s how:

Start with the Statistics on Skilled Nursing Care

Begin your search by checking out Medicare’s nursing home ratings at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare, but don’t assume that a five star community is necessarily the best option. Look at each community’s health inspection and staff to get more details. Clue in on the reasons behind citations; for example, if there is a failure to create a care plan, that’s not as serious as medication errors. Take notice of how many hours each resident receives with nurses – the more the better. You can also contact the state survey agency to find out about consumer complaints. When you find a community that appeals to you, call to ensure they have a unit or room available that fits your needs.

Plan Visits to Skilled Nursing Care Communities

When looking for a skilled nursing care community, plan to take an official tour and ask these relevant questions:

  1. Do residents eat in a dining room or in bed?
  2. Can residents decide when they want to shower or is there a strict schedule?
  3. If the resident has limited mobility, will he/she be helped to activities?
  4. Does the staff work with the same residents every day or are they rotated?
  5. What kind of programs are there and how often are they available?
  6. What are visiting hours and how often can residents leave?
  7. Take note of the mood; do nurses talk to residents in the hall?
  8. Is there a waiting list?
  9. Do they accept Medicaid, the government program for low-income individuals?

You may not have time to make a second visit if you are looking for a place immediately. If you have the opportunity, drop by unannounced on a weekend when staffing is lighter to solidify your thoughts and feelings about the community.

Figure Out the Finances

Let’s face it, skilled nursing care is expensive. Medicare, will cover part of the cost of a care community for only 100 days after a discharge from the hospital – and then you are on your own. This is where long-term-care insurance can really be helpful. Although long-term-care insurance usually doesn’t take effect until after 60 or 90 days (depending on the policy), the daily rate it covers can be less than the cost of the community you’ve chosen. Since not all care communities accept Medicaid, it’s important to note in advance to plan a move if the payment method needs to alter.

Adapted from a post by Carrie Robertson, with information sourced from Money Magazine.

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