Choosing a Nursing Home for Long-Term Care
The decision to transition yourself or a loved one in a nursing home is never an easy one, but for many may be the best alternative or the only suitable option available. Once a determination has been made, though, concern should then shift to selecting a facility which offers optimum comfort and the utmost level of care to its resident, that will provide stability by meeting the resident’s needs on a long-term basis. There are many things to take into consideration when choosing a nursing home, and while some may seem more obvious, others are often overlooked. The Chicago Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have compiled a list of tips to assist you in the process.
Tip 1. Know the resources available to help narrow your search
There are a number of publications, guides, references, checklists, as well as interactive search tools that can be accessed online to assist you. Just a few include:
- Illinois Department of Public Health
- Illinois Legal Aid
- Illinois Department of Aging
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- US News 2014 Guide to Best Nursing Homes
- National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-term Care
- Chicago-area Nursing Homes Rated
Tip 2. Check the facility’s credentials
Make sure the nursing home is currently licensed, as required by law, while also making sure that there are no issues with the facility that might lead to suspension, revocation or non-renewal of their license in the future. Check for prior incidents, such as safety or regulatory violations; complaints, reports, investigations involving abuse or neglect; issues with hiring, training, or supervision of staff members; and any other ‘red-flags.’ Ask the facility to see their most recent inspection report, or use the resources listed above to obtain a copy yourself.
Tip 3. Consider the resident’s needs both now and in the future
Make sure the facility has the medical professionals, staff, services, programs, and equipment that the resident currently needs, while ensuring that the facility will be able to accommodate the resident’s needs upon any changes in physical or mental status. In example, if the individual is experiencing early signs of dementia, is diabetic, or has increasing issues with mobility, you may want to consider selecting a facility that specializes in caring for residents with certain conditions, diagnoses, or impairments.
Tip 4. Financial Considerations
It is important to evaluate the resident’s current financial resources, as well as other resources that may be available or needed in the future. While considerations vary depending on whether services will be paid out-of-pocket, by a private insurance provider, through government assistance, an alternate source, or a combination thereof, emphasis should remain on ensuring long-term stability for the resident. Examples include:
- Costs of basic resident services, as well as optional and supplemental services
- Programs and eligibility requirements for government assistance programs
- Whether the facility accepts Medicare / Medicaid
- Whether private health insurance covers nursing home costs
- Standards regarding spousal impoverishment, and the prevention thereof
- Other payment options/ considerations (i.e. pension/ retirement plans; reverse mortgages; veteran’s assistance; tax deductions and credits)
Tip 5. Location
Both the resident’s personal desires, as well as the distance between persons that will be visiting the resident most frequently should be considered. Keep in mind that visits are important in maintaining the resident’s happiness, well-being, and morale, but also that family members may be needed to tend to certain needs that are either not provided by the facility or which might add unnecessary expenses/charges to the bill (i.e. shopping, errands, laundry).
Tip 6. Work together
Try to engage as many people as possible in nursing home selection process, including the prospective resident; their family members and friends; previous caregivers; community support groups; and when possible, any physicians or medical professionals that have been most-recently involved in their care.
Tip 7. Checklist
Use a checklist to compare the advantages and disadvantages between specific facilities. Many of the resources listed in ‘Tip 1’ provide sample nursing home criteria checklists that can be printed for use, or you may want to compile your own. Some common examples include:
- charges for regular services
- costs for optional or supplemental services
- rooming accommodations
- type and schedule of activities offered
- religious services
- menu plans
- resident-to-staff ratio
- transportation services
- visiting hours
- on-ground outdoor recreation
- grooming services
- on-ground outdoor recreation
- safety features and plans (i.e. mobility assistance, fall and accident prevention, fire, emergency and evacuation plans, etc.)
Determine what qualities are most desirable and beneficial to the resident and their family, and focus on narrowing your search to a facility that provides these, and also meets any long-term financial constraints.
Tip 8. Visit the Facility
Evaluate the level of cleanliness in all living areas. Observe the overall atmosphere—is the staff pleasant, and do the residents appear to be happy? If you are making the decision for a loved one, put yourself in their position—could you see yourself spending your elder years there as well? Take the time to carefully and thoroughly assess the facility during your visit, so that you can gain your own individual perceptions regarding the facility as a whole. If you see any ‘red-flags,’ your instincts might very well be right. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Tip 9. Consider having your contract with the nursing home reviewed
Nursing home contracts can be lengthy and complicated to understand. Make sure you know exactly what is being agreed to prior to signing anything. If possible, have an attorney review your contract.
Tip 10. Know state and federal laws and regulations
There are two primary bodies of law that govern nursing homes in Illinois:
- Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (state law)
- Nursing Home Reform Care Act (federal law)
Whether you are in the process of choosing a long-term care facility for yourself or a loved one, or have a question or concern with an existing facility, the Chicago Nursing Home Abuse & Negligence Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. are here to help. We offer FREE personal injury consultations in all injury-related matters, and never charge a fee unless we recover monies on your behalf. Contact us online, or give us a call at 773-516-4100.