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What Caregivers Should Know About Nursing Home Care

What Is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care refers to a comprehensive range of medical, personal, and social services coordinated to meet the physical, social, and emotional needs of people who are chronically ill or disabled. A nursing home facility may be the best choice for people who require 24-hour medical care and supervision.

What Type of Care Do Nursing Homes Provide?

Nursing homes offer the most extensive care a person can get outside a hospital. Nursing homes offer help with custodial care -- like bathing, getting dressed, and eating -- as well as skilled care. Skilled nursing care is given by a registered nurse and includes medical monitoring and treatments.

Skilled care also includes services provided by specially trained professionals, such as physical, occupational, and respiratory therapists.

What Services Do Nursing Homes Offer?
The services nursing homes offer vary from facility to facility. Services often include:

  • Room and board
  • Monitoring of medication
  • Personal care (including dressing, bathing, and toilet assistance)
  • 24-hour emergency care
  • Social and recreational activities

How Can I Find the Right Nursing Home?
Finding the right nursing home takes time. It is important to begin the search for a suitable nursing home well in advance of seeking admission to the facility. There are often long waiting periods for available accommodations. Planning ahead also can make the transition of moving into a nursing home much easier.

Talk with your family and caregivers about what services you will need. Take time to consider what services are important to you before calling different nursing homes.

Think about these questions:

  • What daily activities do I need help with (bathing, dressing, toileting assistance, eating)?
  • How often do I need help?

Before scheduling a visit to the nursing homes you are interested in, ask about vacancies, admission requirements, level of care provided, and participation in government-funded health insurance options.

How Can I Pay for Nursing Home Care?
As you and your family evaluate your long-term care needs, it's important to consider financing options. Payment for nursing home care can be made through Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and personal funds. When evaluating nursing homes, it's important to ask the administrative staff what payment options they accept. Here's a brief summary of some of the financing options.

  • Medicare is a federal health insurance program providing health care benefits to all Americans age 65 and over. Insurance protection intended to cover major hospital care is provided without regard to income. Medicare will only provide 100 days of nursing care, and only if a person requires skilled care and is referred by a doctor when discharged from the hospital. If a person needs custodial care alone, Medicare won't cover it. Medicare only pays for skilled care in a nursing facility that has a Medicare license.
  • Medicaid is a joint federal/state health insurance program providing medical care benefits to low income Americans who meet certain requirements. Nursing home care is covered through Medicaid, but the requirements and covered services vary widely from state to state. To become eligible for Medicaid coverage, people usually have to spend all of their assets first. This means that they might pay for nursing home care out of pocket initially. Once their money runs out, Medicaid would kick in. It's a good idea to work with a lawyer who specializes in elder law when determining Medicaid eligibility.
  • Private long-term care insurance is a health insurance option that, if purchased, supplements Medicare coverage. Private long-term care insurance policies vary greatly. Each policy has its own eligibility requirements, restrictions, costs, and benefits.

What Should I Look for in a Nursing Home?
The following checklist will help you and your family evaluate different nursing homes. Review the following checklist before visiting a facility. Be sure to take a checklist with you.

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