Assisted Living & Senior Living in U.S.

What are nursing homes?

Nursing Homes Overview: Costs, Payment Options, How to Find

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes are similar to assisted living communities in that patients reside in the nursing home and are cared for by medical professionals.  In regards to nursing homes, care is given around the clock and for extended periods of time, by doctor, nurses, and licensed health professionals.  Compared to other home health care options, nursing homes are for the most demanding patients requiring 24 hour care and long term medical assistance.

Those in nursing homes tend to be the disabled, elderly, and those with cognitive complications.  Those with declining health, poor recovery from surgery and bone replacements, and patients with speech impediments also find safety in the care within a professional nursing home.  Those suffering from severe illnesses are also admitted in nursing homes to better assure the patient is cared for and the living conditions are safe.

When one is considering nursing home facilities, there may be a lot of questions you have and need answers to.  All questions and concerns are valid in regards to a nursing home and the placement of a loved one.  When researching the types of nursing homes available, some of these questions you may have should be:

What are nursing homes?

How do nursing homes compare to assisted living facilities?

What are the typical services a nursing home offers?

How much do nursing homes generally cost?
What does a nursing home offer the patient?
What is not included in a nursing home?
Who are nursing homes for?

How do nursing homes compare to assisted living facilities?

Nursing homes are compared to assisted living communities in that both care for those who need residential health care outside of the home.  The difference between a nursing home and assisted living is that in a nursing home, the patients require 24 hour care and for extended periods of time.  Those in a nursing home are less independent, if at all, and require constant watch and safety measures in place.  Many people in nursing homes are bed ridden and immobile, thereby requiring help in every aspect of personal care.

Nursing homes generally offer a doctor and nurse on staff at all times, access to hospitals and medical equipment, locked doors, and alarms.  In an assisted living center, these security measures as not needed for all patients and residents as in a nursing home.

Cost of Nursing Homes

When looking into the cost of a nursing home, quality of the center and the staff should remain the highest priority.  However, costs are always a factor in regards to health care and nursing homes are known for their high prices for care.  For example, many nursing homes are priced between $200 and $1000 per day depending upon the needs of the patient.

When one stays in a nursing home for a short time, the cost of the nursing home will go down.  Compared to those who must live out their lives at a nursing home, the short term option may be the most cost effective.  Also a determining factor in cost is the type of room one has.  There are rooms of all sizes and occupancies available, similar to that of a hotel.  The larger and more private the room, the higher the cost will be.  Location of the nursing home also comes into account in regards to overall cost. 

Paying for a nursing home

When a nursing home facility has been chosen and the costs have been agreed upon, one must determine how to pay for this type of care.  Nursing homes are very expensive and can exceed the cost of an elderly person’s apartment and medical costs when living outside of the nursing home.  Figuring out a new budget to attribute to the cost of nursing home care is difficult if the funding is not there and savings have not been accumulated.  In the event there is little money, insurance and other funds available, grants can be applied for and distributed on an as needed basis, and to the most extreme cases.

Private payments, insurance, Veteran’s benefits and Medicare all tend to provide funds for the cost of a nursing home when ordered by a doctor.  Provided there is documentation of the illness or injury, the costs should be at least covered in part via insurance.  Given the fact that nursing homes are so expensive, your insurance company may not be required to pay for all of the care services billed.  When looking for options to pay for a nursing home, be sure to take into account your own financial footing and ability to pay.

What does a nursing home have to offer?

Nursing homes offer a great deal of services to their residents and patients, comparable to a hospital, but in a more home like setting.  For those constantly worried about the health and well being of a family member, a nursing home may offer the services and peace of mind required.  For those unable to care for themselves any longer due to serious illness and disease, unburdening the family of the ones who needs care by entering a nursing home can be a blessing in disguise.

While all nursing homes differ according to state, location, regulations, and abilities, the majority of nursing homes offer:

  • Round the clock care and safety
  • Home
  • Peace of mind
  • Medical knowledge and experience
  • Social opportunities with like minded patients
  • Doctors on site
  • Access to hospital care
  • Food
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Physical and speech therapy
  • Medical equipment
  • Proper beds
  • Oxygen tanks and other specialty pieces
  • Care for those with dementia

Finding a nursing home

How does one find the nursing home for their loved one that will be the most beneficial and the least disruptive to routine?  One must begin with personal referrals and to complete as much research as possible.  When a list of acceptable homes has been made, you must visit the home, speak with the staff, assess the home itself, and visit with the patients to best determine the atmosphere of the nursing home.

When visiting potential nursing homes, be sure to assess the abilities the staff have in medical situations.  Your medical, mental, and dietary needs to be adhered to and the nursing home should be designed with this in mind.  Also to consider is the turnover of the staff, the overall morale of the building, and the experiences of past patients.  Location is also important to consider.  One should be in a nursing home close to family, friends, and a support system.

When visiting a nursing home and determining the acceptability, be sure to take into account the cleanliness of the home, the smell, the sights, the lighting, and the overall demeanor of the residents.  Looking to the residents and their families for guidance may be the final piece of your nursing home puzzle.  The current state of the nursing home residents offers insight to the capabilities of the staff.  When the residents are cared for, the residents will be visibly healthy (as can be), clean, and of decent spirits. The referrals of the families of residents may also offer insight to the actual care the nursing home offers, as well as what to expect if one becomes a long term resident. 

Who are nursing homes for?

Nursing homes benefit those who cannot care for themselves and their homes in a secure manner due to cognitive decline and worsening health.  On rare occasions, nursing homes are used a short term method for care, but the majority of patients in the nursing home facility are there due to long term care. Those with cognitive decline (such as due to dementia or Alzheimer's), poor mobility, poor communication, poor hygiene and lack of memory may find that a nursing home may be a good fit for their needs. Those seniors who can still care for themselves independently should not be in a nursing home.

When should you consider a nursing home?

A nursing home should be considered when a patient is no longer able to care for themselves independently, or keep themselves safe, and when nobody is able to care for them inside their home.  Those who are unable to care for themselves need care in and out of the house, but those with dementia or Alzheimer's also need care to ensure the home and patient remain safe.  Nursing homes should be considered in the event an elderly person has wandered away from home, has trouble remembering fires on the stove, or is unable to cook, clean, and care for the home.

A doctor's opinion is one of the best indicators as to whether or not a nursing home must be considered.  The opinion of a doctor should be respected and trusted given that over time the patient has been watched and under the guidance of a medical professional.

Nursing homes benefit most those people that have difficult time practicing hygiene, housekeeping, and performing simple chores.  Those who have memory issues, an inability to drive, poor mobility, and difficulty communicating benefit from the staff at a nursing home that is trained to care for their particular medical and mental needs.

What does a nursing home offer the patient?

All nursing homes vary depending upon location, price point, and specialties.  Peace of mind, safety, and medical attention are all offered in extended care nursing homes.  However, there are a core group of services a nursing home should offer their patients:

  • Home like environment
  • Around the clock care via on-site medical professionals
  • On site housekeepers
  • Cooks
  • Salon care
  • Laundry
  • Medical devices
  • Medicine
  • Hospital beds if needed
  • Ramps and accessibility when needed
  • Transportation
  • Social outings for those who are able
  • Security
  • Counseling

What is not included in a nursing home?

In a nursing home, most all services are covered to ensure the comfort and medical needs of the patient are met.  Massage, luxury goods, single rooms and private meetings may not be offered in some nursing homes, but offered in others, depending upon the price.  In a nursing home you or your family member may miss the comforts of the actual home one left, but the nursing home itself has all one needs to remain happy and healthy during their difficult times. Not included in a nursing home setting is the actual home one is accustomed to.  Outside of the comforts of one’s home, a nursing home has all that is offered in a home care environment, but with higher emphasis on medical attention and safety.  A nursing home has much to offer all patients, so very little is not included.

Is a nursing home the right fit for me or family member?

Nursing home preferences are unique to the individual and family and are needed for a variety of circumstances.  After researching the topics of your particular medical situation and need for a nursing home, you will be better able to assess whether a nursing home is right for your family.  If you or a family member have cognitive decline, poor mobility, low communication skills, decline in social ability, and the inability to practice good hygiene, then moving into a nursing home may be the best option to secure the safety of all.

Obeying doctor’s orders and moving to a nursing home can be a difficult time for most and counseling services should be offered to everyone involved.  Also involved should be social service agencies and support groups to ensure the mental health and physical health remain in the family and with the resident.  Ensuring you have doctor’s orders and proper documentation should allow a smooth transition into the life of a nursing home resident and also ease the financial burden of the final costs.

For those looking for a safe home and care giving for those unable to care for themselves, nursing homes may be worth looking into. The modern nursing homes are unlike the nursing homes of the past and have stricter regulations for their staff.  Ideally, the nursing home you choose is one all are comfortable with and provides the peace of mind needed to live the rest of one’s life in peace.