Nursing home care is a type of long-term care often meant for the elderly. In most cases, the seniors who live in nursing homes are no longer healthy, mobile, or independent enough to be cared for at home-or even in an assisted living community-but not ill in a way that demands hospital care. Nursing homes are usually staffed by nurses and aides with considerable medical care skills and senior care experience. The nursing staff is on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that patients always have the assistance they need.
The services offered in nursing homes run a wide range, from custodial care (help with getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, shaving, and more) to physical and speech therapy. The staff at a nursing home will also manage medications, make sure that patients receive meals, and encourage residents to develop friendships with one another. Nursing home activities and events help to cultivate this community feel.
Notable Statistics about Nursing Homes
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are 15,700 nursing homes in the United States, offering a total of 1.7 million licensed beds. About 1.4 million of those beds are currently occupied, representing the approximate number of patients who are receiving care in nursing homes today.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), nursing home care is the second most common form of long-term care in the United States, after home health care, which is the overwhelming leader with over 4.7 million patients supported each year. Hospices are the third most common form of long-term care (with 1.24 million patients supported annually), while "residential care communities"-or assisted living facilities-are fourth, and adult day care services are fifth.
When to Consider Nursing Home Care
Typically, nursing home care is seen as the final step of care for a senior before the hospital or hospice care. As a result, some seniors (as well as their families or friends) are slow to consider nursing home care, simply because they don't want to feel as if they are accepting "the beginning of the end." But when is it time for nursing home care, and how can families know if their loved ones have reached that point?
First off, please note that just because a senior can no longer take care of themselves at home does not necessarily have to move directly into a nursing home. On the contrary, one of the reasons that seniors are reluctant to accept nursing home care is that they do not want to lose the independence that is afforded to them at home. Luckily, there are numerous types of long-term care-chiefly, in-home care and assisted living-that can provide a great balance between independence and assistance or monitoring.
The ultimate question that needs to be asked here is this: if the senior in question were to receive care in their home or as part of an assisted living community, would all of their needs be met? Most custodial care needs, for instance, can be met either by in-home caregivers or assisted living aides, depending on how pressing those needs are. On the other hand, if a senior is no longer physically capable of moving around much on their own, or if their mental state has reached a point where they forget where they are, then they may require 24-hour supervision, and that level of care can only be provided in a nursing home or a hospital.
If you don't know whether or not your loved one's needs would be met in an in-home care or assisted living environment, ask a doctor. If you are considering nursing home care, it is a good idea to schedule an appointment with a medical professional and get their expert opinion on the matter. A formal medical examination and assessment can tell more about precisely what the senior's needs are, which can in turn make it easier to decide which level of long-term care is the right choice.
The Cost of Nursing Home Care
The biggest drawback of nursing home care is that the costs can be, quite frankly, staggering. According a study conducted by the National Investment Center, the median monthly cost for nursing care in the United States was $7,001-or about $84,000 annually. A more recent survey done by MetLife in 2012 put the cost for a private room at $248 per day-or $90,520 annually. (The same study priced out the cost for a semi-private room at $222 per day, or $81,030 per year.) And considering the fact that the average nursing home stay is about 835 days (according to a National Nursing Home Survey conducted by the government), most seniors or their families will end up paying more than $185,000 for a full stay in a semi-private room, and over $207,000 for a private room.
Unfortunately, average rates can only give a ballpark of what you might expect to pay if and when a loved one requires nursing home care. Price can vary drastically depending on geographic location, Medicare and Medicaid eligibility, the length of the stay, and even the nursing home you choose.
Finding the Right Nursing Home
While prices can be scary and might become a part of the consideration as you look for a nursing home for an elderly loved one, your first goal should be to make sure that the senior is going to get the quality of care they need and deserve. The tips provided in the bulleted list below will help you to find the right nursing home for your loved one.
- Ask friends or relatives for referrals in your area.
- Research nursing home care in your area, and make a list of the available options.
- Look around online for reviews or grades of different nursing homes.
- Schedule visits at different nursing homes, including interviews or meetings with staff.
- Take a list of your senior's medical needs to the nursing home meetings, to help determine which places or equipped to meet those needs.
- Think about location and distance between the nursing home and your home.
With these tips in mind-as well as the rest of information provided in this article-you should be able to determine whether or not nursing home care is the right choice for the senior in your life, and if it is, which nursing home is the best fit.