By Jonathan Feniak, Esq., MBA
Moving a loved one into a nursing home can be a tough and emotion-filled decision. The process can make you feel guilty, anxious, or overwhelmed. However, there are many steps you can take to ease the transition for both you and your loved one.
First, you need to determine how you'll pay for nursing home care. Depending on your loved one's income, assets, and health insurance, different programs can assist in covering some or all of the costs. For example, Medicare may pay for up to 100 days of skilled nursing care per benefit period if certain conditions are met. Some states have Medicaid coverage for low-income seniors who need long-term care, but eligibility and benefits may vary. You might also consider exploring other funding options, like veterans' benefits, long-term care insurance, and private grants.
The second important step is to research and compare nearby nursing facilities. You want to locate a place that will work with the preferences, needs, and financial status of your loved one. You can ask your loved one's doctor, social worker, or other health care professional for recommendations. Alternatively, you can search for nursing homes online to compare factors like quality ratings, health inspections, and staffing levels. You should also visit these facilities and ask about their services, policies, fees, and activities before making a decision.
Before transferring your loved one to a nursing home, you should pack and prepare their belongings according to the facility's regulations. Pack clothing and shoes that are seasonally appropriate, personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes and soap, medications and medical supplies like glasses and hearing aids, documents such as identification and insurance cards, and a few personal items that will help make them feel at home. Label everything with their name and room number, and keep an inventory of what you have packed.
When you have a loved one in a nursing home, you must be their advocate to ensure that they get the best care. Speak to the staff about your loved one's medical history, preferences, needs, and goals. You should also pay attention to their health and report any issues or concerns to the staff or management. Also, you should attend meetings to review your loved one's care plan from time to time. If you are not satisfied with the quality of care or services provided, you have the right to ask questions, request changes, or file a complaint about the business.
Perhaps one of the most valuable ways to support your loved one while they're adjusting to living in a nursing home is to continue communicating with and visiting them regularly. You should call or write to them frequently to show your concern for them. Also, visit them as often as possible to spend time with them. You might plan to enjoy activities that appeal to them, like reading, playing games, or listening to music. You could also bring them gifts or treats. But you should also respect their privacy and independence and allow them to make their own decisions whenever possible.
Make a point of getting to know the staff who will be looking after your loved one. You should introduce yourself and your loved one to the staff members who are involved in their care, including nurses, aides, therapists, and social workers. Learn their names, roles, schedules, and contact information, and try to develop a friendly and positive relationship with them by showing appreciation for their work. You should also regularly keep in touch with them about your loved one's health.
Nursing homes are bound to be filled with people your loved one doesn't know, but it shouldn't stay that way. Encourage your loved one to participate in social events organized by the nursing home, which can help to keep them active, entertained, and involved with other residents and staff. If your loved one isn't interested in any of these events, speak with the staff about the possibility of adding some activities that are suited to their interests.