What is a Nursing Home?
Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing or nursing care facilities, are residential living environments for older adults who need 24-hour medical care and assistance with performing essential everyday tasks. Nursing homes are ideal for seniors who do not require hospitalization but are not capable of being fully independent and caring for themselves. These senior living communities provide residents with the security, care, and peace of mind to continue going about their daily lives while experiencing an improved quality of life alongside peers of the same generation.
In this write up, we will go over some nursing home basics to help you learn more and make the best choice.
What Are the Benefits of a Nursing Home?
Nursing homes offer a number of benefits for seniors who need constant access to medical care and help with performing everyday activities. Nursing homes can greatly improve the quality of life for older adults who do not wish to burden their relatives with caregiving duties or who have chronic medical conditions requiring access to 24-hour nursing care. Here are other benefits of living in a nursing home:
Activities of Daily Living
Aging is often accompanied by many different changes to one's health and lifestyle that can make it difficult to maintain good nutrition and eat regular meals. For instance, decreased appetite is a common side effect of many medications, while wheelchairs and canes can make it difficult to safely navigate the kitchen and prepare healthy meals. MedlinePlus reports that optimal nutrition may help prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain cancers in the older adult population. Nursing homes provide residents with prepared, healthy meals served in the dining hall or cafeteria that can be customized for each resident based on their unique nutrition needs.
Feelings of isolation and loneliness become more prevalent with age, especially when older adults fall out of touch with relatives, experience the loss of a spouse, or suffer cognitive problems that can make communication more difficult. Nursing homes provide seniors with the opportunity to socialize with peers in their living communities, and organize various social events that appeal to older generations. Nursing homes that offer memory care services for residents with dementia also offer specialized social activities designed to enhance cognitive function and slow the progression of dementia.
Safety and Security
Seniors are often more susceptible to falls and injuries than their younger counterparts, and are often considered easy targets for theft and fraud. Seniors with dementia are also prone to wandering and getting lost, or may forget to lock and close their windows and doors. Nursing homes provide seniors with the safety and security services they need to avoid or reduce their risk for harm. Residents are constantly surrounded by staff members who are professionally trained to spot potential threats and dangers.
Most nursing homes offer housekeeping services that handle common chores so residents can spend more time focusing on their health. Work such as changing bedding, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the hallway and common areas are examples of work items the nursing home should tend to. Such chores can be time-consuming, physically challenging, and exhausting for many seniors if left to do them on their own.
Specialized Health Care
Dementia, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease are the most common chronic health conditions that affect people aged 85 years and older, according to a 2017 study in Frontiers in Public Health. Many nursing homes have memory care units that offer specialized care for residents with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and will usually develop customized meal plans for residents with osteoporosis that provide them with higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Seniors who move into nursing homes can benefit from knowing they will receive specialized health care for their medical conditions.
What Are the Differences Between Assisted Living and Nursing Care?
Assisted living communities and nursing homes share a lot of similarities, but the main difference between the two is that nursing homes provide 24-hour medical care and skilled nursing care, while assisted living communities offer only limited medical care and supervision.
Assisted living communities are ideal for older adults who may need a low level of medical care and minimal assistance with performing normal daily living activities. Seniors in assisted living communities are typically independent but require help with some activities of daily living such as bathing or grooming. Nursing homes offer more extensive medical care for seniors who need help around the clock.
Nursing homes and assisted living communities offer many of the same activities, amenities, and services, including housekeeping services, nutritious meals, transportation, social events, and fitness classes or physical and occupational therapy. Some communities offer
both assisted living and nursing care under one roof
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so residents can transition seamlessly from one unit to the next in the event their health and medical needs change.
How Does Short Term and Long Term Nursing Care Differ?
Nursing homes may offer short-term care, long-term care, or both. Short-term care, also known as critical care nursing, is for seniors in recovery from a recent surgery, injury, or acute illness who need temporary 24-hour medical care outside of a hospital setting. Many patients who receive critical care nursing move back into their homes following recovery, though some with a chronic illness may end up staying at the nursing home to receive long-term care.
Seniors who receive long-term care usually stay at nursing homes for the remainder of their lives, and end up building meaningful relationships with nursing staff and other residents to benefit from an enhanced quality of life. Long-term nursing care is for seniors with dementia and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease who may need specialized memory care services. Long-term nursing care is also for seniors with a chronic or terminal illness that requires ongoing and immediate access to a high level of medical care.
What is Respite Care?
Respite care is a service that provides temporary relief for caregivers. Caregiving can become extremely overwhelming at times, especially when you are caring for a loved one with a variety of demanding health needs. Some define respite care as a much-needed break away from the daily and ongoing demands associated with caregiving.
Many nursing homes provide respite care services for caregivers and offer short-term housing for seniors who need 24-hour supervision, medical care, and assistance with performing routine daily activities. Respite care is also available in the form of adult day care programs, which offer daytime relief to caregivers who must go to work and handle personal business during daytime hours. Though the main goal of respite care is to temporarily relieve the primary caregiver of their duties, this service also gives patients the opportunity to interact with different nurses and caregivers, as well as peers in the nursing home community.
Many caregivers outside of a nursing home are children or spouses of the person being cared for, and may have been placed in their caregiving roles unexpectedly. As a result, these individuals may still be experiencing difficulty adjusting to their roles as caregivers while also managing careers, household duties, and families, and need extra support in the form of respite care. A study published in a 2018 issue of Inquiry reports that an estimated 45% of caregivers of people with dementia have unmet mental health needs and could benefit from emotional support or respite care.
What Services Are Provided by Nursing Homes?
Nursing homes offer a wide range of services that will vary for each patient based on their level of care and on whether they receive short-term or long-term nursing care.
These services can include:
24-hour nursing care, and medically related treatment for medical conditions including palliative care if needed
Pharmaceutical and medication management services that help residents obtain, take, and administer prescribed medications
Rehabilitative services including speech, physical, cognitive, occupational, respiratory, and vocational therapies
Dental services, including routine and emergency services
Nutrition services, including healthy, prepared meals tailored to each resident's unique health status and nutrition needs
A professionally directed program of activities such as social events, and religious services
Housekeeping services, including room and bed maintenance
Help with performing activities of daily living, such as assistance with bathing, using the restroom, dressing, grooming, and feeding
Transportation to and from hospitals, and other outside facilities
When researching your options for nursing homes, it is important to ask about specialized and complementary services that can further enhance the quality of life for yourself or your senior loved one.
Do Nursing Home Residents Receive Nursing Care Plans?
A nursing care plan allows medical staff to stay on the same page and work toward the same goals as they relate to a patient's health care; therefore, the importance of nursing care plans is recognized by nearly all nursing homes.
Nursing care plans are usually developed for patients at the time of admission to the nursing home after doctors have properly evaluated a patient's medical records and determined their medical needs. Each patient's nursing care plan is shared with all members of the medical staff to ensure patients receive their medications on time and are having their medical needs met at all times. Nursing care plans are critical references in nursing homes due to frequent shift changes among nurses and the ever-changing medical statuses of patients.
When researching your options for nursing homes, ask whether the facility develops customized nursing care plans for each patient, and about the frequency at which these plans are updated, shared, and accessed by medical staff. Narrow your options down to nursing homes that place emphasis on the importance of a nursing care plan and recognize the importance of whole-person health for patients.
What Does a Typical Nursing Care Plan Look Like?
Nursing care plans typically vary from one senior to the next based on medical conditions and personal needs. In most cases, a typical nursing care plan includes the patient's diagnoses and medical conditions; preferred or anticipated goals and outcomes; nursing interventions; and routine evaluations.
Every nursing home patient will undergo a thorough assessment at the time of intake. This assessment will generally include physiological and psychological health data and information about the patient's lifestyle, which allows medical staff to collaborate and develop a customized treatment plan for each patient based on their medical needs. Diagnoses noted in the nursing care plan may also be clearly defined to ensure all staff members stay on the same page about a patient's health needs.
Goals and Outcomes
Every nursing care plan will include short-term and long-term treatment goals for each patient, along with anticipated outcomes. For instance, a short-term goal for a resident with osteoporosis who recently suffered a fracture after falling may focus on healing the fracture, while the long-term goal may be to increase the patient's intake of calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures.
The interventions outlined in a nursing care plan are the various actions nurses will take to achieve the established treatment goals and outcomes. These interventions may include checking the patient's blood pressure twice a day or administering medications at the appropriate times. Interventions can change at any time based on a patient's health status, and will always be documented in their nursing care plan.
Patients in nursing homes will receive routine checkups and evaluations so interventions can be stopped, started, or modified as needed to improve the outcome. A patient's nursing care plan may specify the frequency at which evaluations are needed to support health goals and outcomes.
Before choosing a nursing home for yourself or a loved one, ask if you can see nursing care plan examples to gain a better idea about the quality of care delivered by the facility.
What Are the Signs it May Be Time For a Nursing Home?
Transitioning your loved one into a nursing home is an important decision and a big step toward making sure your loved one can be properly cared for as they continue to age and their medical condition progresses. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine when your loved one should move into a nursing home, especially if you think it's possible for you to continue managing your loved one's health and needs at home. However, moving your loved one into a nursing home can strongly benefit your overall quality of life and that of your loved one.
Some signs it may be time for you or your loved one to transition to a nursing home include:
the need for 24-hour medical care and supervision that you and your relatives can no longer provide
having medical needs that require specialized care or frequent visits to specialists
having difficulty with moving around and being mobile
struggling with performing essential daily tasks such as bathing, using the restroom, and performing basic household chores
nutrition decline due to poor mobility, decreased appetite, or difficulty chewing and swallowing
experiencing problems with medication adherence, such as forgetting to take medications or doubling doses by accident
personal hygiene decline due to difficulties associated with grooming, bathing, brushing teeth, and incontinence
accumulating a high number of bruises, cuts, sores, fractures, and other injuries
If you commonly experience some of the above signs, it may be time to consider a skilled nursing home.
What is the Cost of a Nursing Home?
According to the 2019 Cost of Care Survey conducted by Genworth Financial, the average nursing home costs $8,300 per month, or about $275 a day.
Many older adults who need nursing home care will rely on personal assets to pay for room, board, and services not covered by insurance plans. Savings accounts, stocks, whole life insurance, home equity, as well as bridge loans and reverse mortgages may pay for nursing home care.
Most nursing homes are generally willing to work with you to help you or your loved one receive the medical care and assistance needed. Be sure to ask each facility about its available payment options, and also about any special discounts or programs for which your loved one may be eligible.
In most cases, the staff members at nursing homes will discuss available financing and payment options that can help you or your loved one establish residency at the facility.
Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care?
Medicare Part A covers up to 100 days of skilled nursing care per spell of illness. However, the conditions for obtaining Medicare coverage of a nursing home stay are quite stringent. The patient must receive a skilled level of care in the nursing facility that cannot be provided at home or on an outpatient basis. Medicare does not cover long-term nursing home stays.
Though Medicare may not cover the cost of nursing home care, this federal health plan will still cover costs related to hospital care, doctor services, and medical supplies, even for those who are living in nursing homes and paying out of pocket. If your loved one has Medicare and has decided to move into a nursing home, contact Medicare directly to learn more about which services are covered, including prescription drug coverage.
Does Medicaid Pay for Nursing Home Care?
Medicaid covers medical care, like doctor visits and hospital costs, long-term care services in nursing homes, and long-term care services provided at home, such as visiting nurses and assistance with personal care. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid does pay for custodial care in nursing homes and at home.
PACE, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly , is a different program that combines both Medicare and Medicaid for people in need of skilled nursing care. For those that are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, special benefits may be available under this program.
Can Long-Term Care Insurance Pay for Nursing Home Care?
This type of insurance may cover costs associated with the support services offered in a nursing home, including activities of daily living. In some instances, coverage may be limited for those with pre-existing health conditions. Patients with long-term care insurance can contact their providers directly to learn more about the coverage provided for nursing homes.
Can Veteran's Benefits Pay for Nursing Home Care?
War veterans and their spouses may be eligible to receive partial coverage for nursing home care, including those with service-related disabilities. The amount of coverage provided by Veterans Affairs will vary from one beneficiary to the next based on the type and severity of the disability, employment status, income level, and specialized nursing services needed. The Department of Veterans Affairs can provide beneficiaries with more information surrounding their coverage and benefits based on these factors.
What Questions Should I Ask When Researching Nursing Homes?
Preparing a list of questions for prospective nursing homes can help you narrow your options so you can choose the best facility possible for yourself or your loved one. When devising your list of questions, include questions that address your highest priorities. For instance, if your loved one is highly interested in participating in social activities and events at the nursing home, ask each facility about the number and frequency of social activities it offers so you can rule out facilities that place less emphasis on these events.
Here are questions you may want to ask when researching nursing homes.
What services does your facility offer?
What types of therapy are available including physical, occupational, speech, and other?
What is the staff-to-patient ratio and staff turnover rate?
How do residents obtain their medications?
Will meals be nutritious and tailored to meet my loved one's health needs?
Are residents allowed to have their personal belongings at the facility?
Does your facility provide transportation?
Can residents spend time outdoors whenever they like?
Does your facility offer spiritual and religious services?
What are the rules and schedules surrounding visitation from friends and family?
What is included in the background checks of nursing home staff?
What type of security system is in place?
Is your nursing home accredited by a major accreditation body?
Do you provide memory care (for patients with dementia)?
While touring facilities, find opportunities to chat with other residents to gain a better feel of what life is like at the nursing home. Many residents will be forthright with their opinions and willing to share what they feel are the pros and cons of living at the facility.
How Can I Find Nursing Homes Near Me?
FindContinuingCare.com is the premier online directory of senior housing communities that can help you or your senior loved one find nursing homes, and other types of senior living. We have an extensive collection of media available including photos, videos, floor plans, and more.
Click on “Find Communities” at the upper right corner of the page to browse nearby nursing homes. Look up communities for free and see if the ones you are interested in have a red button called "Request Tour or Brochure". Here you can get in touch with your communities of interest and ask them to contact you with more information, all at no cost or obligation to you.
In conclusion, skilled nursing care can be a complex topic, but we hope this information has helped prepare you to research your options. Ready to get started? Visit us at FindContinuingCare.com to find the perfect home for you.