When aging family members requires intense medical care, it’s time to consider moving them to a nursing facility. These facilities are licensed by the states and fall into two categories: intermediate care and skilled nursing care. Let’s take a look at what you can expect from these types of living arrangements.
Today, only a small percentage of residents live long-term in nursing facility. More likely, seniors will come to a nursing facility for a temporary recovery period following a medical event such as a stroke. After a period of rehabilitation, they move to another setting. Patients suffering from memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease typically spend the longest periods of time in nursing facilities because of the progressive nature of the illness.
Nursing facility residents are placed in a room — typically either a single- or double-occupancy room, much like a hospital setting. Certified or licensed professionals are on duty around the clock.
Intermediate care facilities will have certified nursing assistants on the property mostly tending to residents’ less intensive medical needs and to personal needs such as bathing, toileting and dressing. Medical staff, such as registered nurses, are on call.
Skilled nursing facilities have registered nurses or licensed vocational nurses on the property at all times, working under the supervision of doctors for more intensive medical needs such as intravenous therapy, physical therapy, wound care, pain management and feeding tubes. This is the highest level of care available outside of a hospital. Some facilities primarily deal in rehabilitative services such as recovering functionality after a stroke or accident. These residents will be in the facility only as long as needed, before returning home or to assisted living.
Making choices. If you anticipate that you or a loved one may need intermediate care now, but skilled care later, the best choice may be a facility that offers both types under one roof. This will minimize the stress of moving later. Some nursing facilities are part of a continuing care community that offers the three-phase spectrum of independent living, assisted living and nursing care on one campus.
Check out facilities carefully. Ask questions about staff turnover. Observe the residents to see if they seem well groomed and alert. Ask visiting family members about their impressions of the facility. Check the records of the regulatory agency in your state.
Costs. Nursing home care costs about $70,000 per year. Medicare will not cover the custodial aspect of a stay, but will help with medical care for up to 100 days after a hospitalization. Medicaid will cover many of the costs of nursing care for those with very limited financial resources, but not all facilities accept it. Long-term care insurance will cover some aspects, but terms differ from one policy to the next. Read all insurance policies carefully before signing.