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How to Pay for It

Nursing homes are expensive. Medicare may cover some of the costs, like short-term care or rehab that's needed after a hospital stay. But you can't rely on it for the long term.

"Many people do not realize that Medicare doesn't pay for nursing home care indefinitely," says Chris Herman, MSW, LICSW, an eldercare expert at the National Association of Social Workers.

If Medicare funding and your loved one's own savings start to run out, Medicaid may help. That's a government program that helps provide health coverage if you have a low income.

Most nursing homes accept both Medicare and Medicaid. Before your loved one moves in, check to see that it takes payments from both.

How to Make It Work

You can do things to make sure your loved one is getting the care he needs:

Visit often. You should also ask friends and relatives to do the same.

Get to know the staff. Share with them what you know about your loved one, such as what he likes and doesn't like. If he prefers a certain daily routine, ask the staff to help provide it.

Pay attention. Check your loved one's care plan, and make sure everyone is following it. If you see something you don't like, speak up. Ask for a meeting to discuss your concerns.

Get involved. Go to family meetings if they're offered.

Keep up with regulations. Check in with your local ombudsman to make sure the nursing home is following all the latest rules.

Document everything. Note any problems that come up. Include dates, times, and the names of people who were involved. This will be helpful if you decide to file a complaint.

Lose the guilt. Remember that you're giving your loved one the best possible care.

"Moving elderly parents -- out of love and safety -- is not a denial of duty," says Barbara McVicker, an eldercare expert and host of the PBS television special Stuck in the Middle: Caring for Mom and Dad.