Nursing Home Checklist

Choosing a Nursing Home / Skilled Nursing Facility

Nursing homes can be large or small, rural or urban. They vary widely in the nursing care plans, activities and services they offer.

Also known as skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes provide care for people whose medical needs require the attention of licensed nurses, but not the more intensive care of a hospital. Admission requires a doctor's order. Nurse's aides provide much of the day-to-day care. Social workers and case managers help seniors and their families with insurance issues and the coordination of nursing care plans. Dietitians, physical and occupational therapists and other health professionals help support and sustain seniors' physical and emotional well-being.

In the past, nursing homes were synonymous with old age homes — they provided long-term custodial care for patients who could no longer take care of themselves, usually for the rest of their lives. Today, only one-fourth of new patients in nursing homes fall into this category.

Now, most admissions to nursing homes follow hospitalization, especially for Medicare patients. These are typically short-term stays for rehabilitation until a patient has recovered enough to be sent home to complete recovery. If your loved one is a recovering patient, you should start planning for their going home in the very near future. (Medicare benefits cover only 23 days of care in nursing homes, on average.)

The nursing home you choose could have a profound impact on your loved one's quality of life and sense of dignity. But, some aspects of selecting a nursing home depend on whether your loved one needs long-term care, or short-term recovery care. For the most part, the following nursing home checklist has been designed to help you for either type of care. But, where there is a special consideration for short-term recovery patients, we've included appropriate commentary. And, some questions in the checklist may be less relevant for short-term care.

Step One: Determine what you can afford

-- Short-Term Recovery Care --

Medicare covers most admissions to skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) for patients recovering after a hospital stay. As long as a patient continues to be eligible, Medicare pays 100% of the eligible expenses for the first 20 days, and all but $133.50 a day (2009 amount) for up to 80 more days. If the patient is covered under a Medicare HMO, or has a Medicare Supplemental insurance policy (except Plan A or B), that plan will pay the $133.50 a day for as long as they continue to be eligible for coverage, up to the 80-day maximum. (But, on average, Medicare discharges patients after just 23 days of care in total.)

-- Long-Term Custodial Care --

Contrary to the belief of most seniors, Medicare pays ...

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