Finding and Choosing a Nursing Home

When you’re looking for a nursing home for a parent or a spouse, it is a difficult job. No one wants their loved one to live in a nursing home. But sometimes it is necessary, when the care needed is more than can be provided at home or in assisted living.

Unfortunately, choosing a nursing home happens under tremendous time pressure, generally under one of three circumstances. Maybe one of these describes you.

From the Hospital to Rehabilitation

First, when your loved one is leaving the hospital for rehabilitation. Often that hospital stay is a whirlwind of activity and uncertainty, and then all of sudden you hear that your loved one will be discharged that afternoon. Don’t let that happen to you. Understand that if there is any chance that your loved one will not come straight home, start looking for a nursing home for rehabilitation immediately. At some point the discharge planner at the hospital will ask you if you have a preference between nursing homes, and you should have an answer ready. In addition, you should ask your discharge planner to find out whether the nursing home is likely to have a bed available for long-term care if care will be needed there after rehab stops. This is further discussed in the next paragraph.

After Rehab Stops

When rehab starts at the nursing home for your loved one after his/her hospital treatment, the goal will be to get your loved one better to return home. However, when the resident is no longer rehabilitating, or when Medicare stops, then the nursing home will discharge your loved one from rehabilitation and you need to locate long-term care. It may be that the nursing home will have a long-term care bed available. However, since Medicare will not be paying you will need to find another way to pay for this care, perhaps private pay, long-term care insurance or Medicaid. You may want to pay privately if this will be a short one or two month nursing home stay, but for longer stays many people explore Medicaid options. Especially for a married couple, be sure to find out if the nursing home will have a Medicaid available quickly. Generally for a married couple, it is possible to obtain assistance from Medicaid fairly quickly, while preserving most of the couple’s assets.

Entering a Nursing Home Directly from Home

Sometimes a loved one goes straight from home to a nursing home, because it’s no longer possible for him or her to live at home. In that situation, there is no hospital stay. Again, if you see this as a likelihood, start making plans early for the nursing home you want to use.

For most people finding a nursing home for a parent or spouse is something they never have done before. Here are some helpful tips that can help you:

For more pointers on evaluating nursing homes, see the checklist. This checklist is also available here.