Choosing a Nursing Home – Nursing homes aren’t for everyone. Plenty of seniors find that they prefer aging the old-fashioned way, in a mother-in-law wing on a relative’s home, or in the new way, in a modern community living center. But nursing homes are the only option that provides round-the-clock professional care. For some, that makes them the only sensible choice. They also strike an ideal balance between reasonable cost and good amenities.
However, even once you’ve made the decision that a nursing home is the right option for you or your loved one, you still have choices ahead. With so many nursing homes on the market, how can you be sure to choose the right one? Here are a few pointers provided by Medicare:
- Check its Medicare certification. Even if you don’t plan to pay using Medicare, you should consider it a red flag if a nursing home doesn’t have Medicare certification. There are two levels of certification: NF (Nursing Facility), which means the facility is qualified to help residents dress, eat, bathe and so on; and SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility), meaning the facility is qualified to give hospital-level care. If you are looking on behalf of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or any other condition that interferes with his or her daily life, you should consider only certified SNFs. (The differences may be subtle, and sometimes a facility’s terminology may not immediately clarify its situation, so be sure to check.)
- Check its Medicare.gov star rating. Medicare.gov compares facilities based on factors such as their fire and health inspection scores. Because unverified reviews aren’t included, there’s no chance of the rating being influenced by company shills. A citation for abuse earns the company a red hand symbol that appears next to its star rating.
- Look at its amenities. Check out the facility’s website to see whether you’ll have access to a gym, swimming pool or library, and what classes and events the facility offers. The amenities that are important to you will depend on your lifestyle and hobbies.
- Never choose a facility without visiting. Perhaps this goes without saying, but the best way to decide on a facility is to experience it in person. Most nursing homes are happy to offer a scheduled tour, so take an afternoon to look around. Have a meal there to see how the food is; look into a bedroom to get a sense of where you will be living; talk to a resident, if possible. Take this checklist along to give you some ideas of what to look for.
Many nursing homes provide great care and services, but it’s important to choose a well-regarded facility that’s right for you. Otherwise, you may have to go through the hassle later of moving again. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can help you separate the sheep from the goats.
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