Deciding on Skilled Nursing Care? Make Peace of Mind Your #1 Criterion

Deciding to move a family member into a skilled nursing facility can be emotionally trying. Adult children can feel guilty about not being able to care for their parents at home, or they fear their parents won’t be cared for properly. Financial considerations also complicate matters, particularly when children worry their parents’ assets won’t cover the cost of quality care.

“People don’t usually plan to come to a nursing home,” says Allen Brown, Executive Director of the Nathaniel Witherell. “The decision often is prompted by a sudden illness or injury that causes hospitalization. Then, once the person is discharged, the level of care required dictates that the person be moved to a skilled nursing facility.”

It’s this lack of planning and the uncertainty about decisions that have to be made quickly that can be the most taxing on families. “The dilemma is that most caregivers have jobs and families of their own,” Mr. Brown notes. “It becomes an added burden to have to figure out how to care for an ailing parent while also juggling work, children, and other responsibilities.”

To help make the process easier and reduce the stress, Mr. Brown offers these tips on making a skilled nursing care decision:

  • Know when it’s time: Safety and supervision are the top issues for the elderly. Telltale signs that a parent can’t safely reside independently are things like forgetting to turn off the stove, frequent falls, or not eating regularly. If a parent is already at an assisted living or residential facility, behavioral issues that disrupt the environment of care (agitation, aggression, disinhibition) may indicate that they are no longer a good fit there. Other issues such as being unable to ambulate independently can also impact eligibility at some assisted living facilities.
  • Set priorities: Quality of care is crucial, as is staff turnover. When a facility’s care team is stable and staff turnover is low, it indicates that there will be consistency of attention for your loved ones. Geography is also a factor to consider, particularly as visits from family & friends remain important. Close proximity and flexible visiting hours, or regular activities that include family members, let you continue to spend quality time together and has a positive impact on residents.
  • Do your homework: Medicare offers an excellent web tool to find nursing homes in your area, and compares them. The best way to make a decision, though, is to visit and take a tour of facilities you are considering. While you’re there, speak to staff members to get a feel for the culture. It’s also smart to visit during a mealtime to evaluate dining services, and possibly speak to residents informally. And don’t feel constrained only to the times when a facility offers a tour. You can also stop by anytime during visiting hours and expect to have someone show you around.

“Families usually know when it’s time to look for a skilled nursing facility for mom or dad,” says Mr. Brown. “It’s really a matter of finding a place that you feel comfortable with, one that offers the quality of care your parent deserves. Having piece of mind is really the goal.”



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