Housing For Seniors

What to Look For in a Nursing Home

Looking for housing options for yourself, an aging parent, relative, or friend?  Do some research first to determine what kind of assistance or living arrangement you need; what your health insurance might cover; and what you can afford. Then check here for financial assistance resources and guides for making the right choice.

The following are some tips on what to look for in a nursing home to help prevent bad care and abuse of your loved one:

  • Get a durable power of attorney for medical care so that you can make health care decisions and review medical records.
  • Request a complete facility profile from the State Health Department, Licensing and Certification Department for the facility you intend to use. Note the number of complaints, the fines assessed and whether the fines have been paid.
  • Notice how many people in the facility seem to be in stupors or in bed or unable to walk or talk. If many patients fall into this category, be wary of over medication at the facility, especially with the psychotropic drugs Haldol, Thorazine, Mellaril and Prolixin.
  • Visit at different times during the day, including meal times. Take notice of the types of food and nutritional balance. Dehydration is a problem, so make sure water is available at all times and that it is easily accessible to the patient.
  • Be sure the patient is actually seen by the doctor and talk with the doctor personally. If the doctor is difficult to contact, bring in another doctor to examine the patient.
  • Take seriously any complaints the patient has about mistreatment by the staff. Don't accept the facilities statement that the patient is old and doesn't know what's going on.
  • Check the patient's body for bedsores, particularly the tailbone, feet and hips. Stage 4, the most serious stage of bedsores, causes death in many cases.
  • Report any signs of bad care to the state licensing office in your state that licenses and regulates nursing homes. Be sure to follow up on the complaint to insure accountability.

Types of Care Facilities

Board and Care: This type of facility does not require to have either nurses or doctors on staff. They provide meals and activities for residents, as well as some help with dressing, eating and hygiene. In most of these facilities, residents must be ambulatory.

Independent-Living Facilities:
These facilities include retirement centers, mobile-home parks and single-family homes. Levels of care vary. Some serve meals in common dining halls, while others may have assisted living services.

Intermediate-Care Facilities:
These facilities provide medical care to people who need 24-hour supervision and occasional skilled nursing care. Residents must be able to walk or use a wheelchair and have some control over bowel and bladder functions.

Skilled Nursing Facilities:
Around-the-clock nursing supervision and care for residents who need help with dressing, eating, bowel and bladder care, and taking prescription medications. Different types of therapy, such as physical, speech or occupational, is also provided. This type of care is very institutional and being run mostly by large corporations for profit.

Sub-Acute Care Facilities:
These facilities provide care outside the acute-care wards of hospitals. They are basically for patients on respirators or nasal/tube feeding.

Who Pays:
Pay for these types of care vary from private pay, MediCare (the federal health insurance program for the elderly) or by MediCaid (the federal/state partnership providing health care for the poor).

Other Resources:
Filing a Complaint
Foundation Aiding the Elderly
Housing for Seniors

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