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What Is a Nursing Home?​

Nursing homes don’t exactly have the best reputation. Many loved ones see them as soul-sucking centers. Often they worry that the care is impersonal and the living experience is lonely. 

But that’s not necessarily the case. Nursing homes can be an excellent option for seniors, with dedicated nurses, lively communities, and specialized medical attention. You may even be surprised by how “homey” one can feel. 

To give you a better idea, let’s go over exactly what is a nursing home and why it may be the right choice for your family. If you’re concerned about costs, we’ll also discuss how to pay for a one. 

What is a Nursing Home?

When your loved one can no longer be cared for at home - due to illness or complications of old age - nursing homes can provide that medical care. These facilities are live-in, which means seniors stay there 24/7. For this reason, they are set up to give ongoing care within a residential-like environment. 

Nursing home care ranges from daily tasks to high-level medical care. Caregivers assist as-needed, including getting dressed, taking a bath and having meals. They may provide housekeeping or laundry. Some facilities also have specific programs for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's, or rehabilitation services for those with physical or speech therapy needs. 

At the same time, on-site doctors and nurses will ensure that patients have all necessary examinations, treatments and medications. Generally speaking, this specialized medical care is the greatest benefit of nursing homes. It’s considered the most extensive care available outside of hospitals. 

How Do They Compare to Other Housing Options?

Nursing homes are distinct from assisted living centers or hospice care. As a rule, nursing homes provide specialized medical care for seniors who require full-time medical supervision. 

On the other hand, assisted living centers are focused on helping with daily tasks, but not medical care. Those who live in assisted living may receive help to take a bath or do their laundry. However, they don’t require the same medical monitoring. Assisted living residents often have more liberty and privacy, too.

Hospice care is for terminally ill patients. It’s often done in-home and prioritizes a patient’s comfort during end-of-life care. 

What Type of Care Do Nursing Homes Provide?

First and foremost, a nursing home provides specialized medical care. Depending on the patient’s condition, this may include 24/7 monitoring and nursing care.

In addition to medical care, a nursing home also provides:

  • Custodial care (such as eating, bathing, dressing and walking)
  • Housekeeping support (such as laundry and transportation)
  • Meal and medication management 
  • Social enrichment and community
  • 24/7 security and supervision

In other words, nursing homes offer a full-range of living services, especially medical assistance. 

What is it Like to Live inside One?

Every nursing home is different. That’s why it’s important to do your research. You’ll want to check into medical specializations, convenience for family, and focus on community. Many facilities are designed for patient well-being and offer a communal layout so that residents can socialize; others have a more hospital-like look. In addition, nursing homes offer different levels of independence and social enrichment. There’s no one-size-fits-all experience of a nursing home, so it’s a good idea to get referrals and visit them yourself. 

Should I be Worried about COVID in Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes have been in the news lately regarding COVID. According to official figures, one in five nursing home facilities has reported at least one COVID death. This can make caregivers legitimately worry about safety in them. In addition, visitation during COVID can be complicated.

Every nursing home has a distinct COVID protocol. However, in general, nursing homes are separating COVID-infected patients from non-infected and requiring facemasks. Many are restricting in-person visits, but sometimes they offer video calls with family members. It’s key to note that nursing home populations are especially vulnerable to COVID, which is why you should ask your facility about its COVID protocol. 

How Much Does a Nursing Home Cost?  

In 2019, a nursing home cost about $8,365 a month for a private room and $7,441 a month for a semi-private room. These costs can be astronomical for the average family. For this reason, it’s vital that you plan for the future whenever possible.

The price for a nursing home depends on many factors, including required medical care, geographical location, quality of custodial care, facilities, etc. It is also worth noting that facility expenses can also go up over time. 

How Can I Pay for a Nursing Home? 

When it comes to paying for a nursing home, you have options. Generally speaking, you can pay using Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or personal funds. Every facility is different, so you should double-check with your preferred facility about which payment methods they accept. 

It’s also important to find out what kind of payment plans the facility offers. For example, you should find out if the plan is fixed monthly or whether the cost varies depending on the care provided that month. Understanding the upfront costs will help you make decisions about how to pay.

Does Medicare Pay for a Nursing Home? 

Medicare is available for all Americans age 65 and up, regardless of income. It offers federal health insurance coverage for medical care costs. In terms of nursing homes, Medicare only covers temporary stays of 100 days. Moreover, they’ll only cover medical expenses during that stay, which means custodial care or meals aren’t covered by Medicare. Medicare also has strict requirements. For example, a nursing home must have a Medicare license and the patient must be referred by a doctor following a hospital stay. 

Does Medicaid Pay for a Nursing Home?

Medicaid is another way to pay for nursing home costs. This federal health insurance program is available for low-income Americans. Overall, Medicaid is only available for nursing homes when a patient has exhausted all their assets (except for home ownership). Coverage varies by state, so it’s important to check requirements according to your state of residence. Medicaid may cover a nursing home stay, but you must first fulfill all the program requirements. 

Those who use Medicaid and own their home should also tread carefully. Sadly, if you die while receiving Medicaid care, the government is eligible to take your home. This may be a risk your family would like to avoid. 

Does Private Insurance Pay for a Nursing Home?

Yes, private insurance can be used to pay for a nursing home. Of course, the specifics depend a lot on your private insurance plan. Be sure to check your plan and what it covers. It can be used in conjunction with Medicare coverage, too. Contact your private insurer directly to have a better sense of what it covers. 

How Else Can I Pay for a Nursing Home?

There are a few other ways to pay for a nursing home. Besides personal funds, you might be able to pay using:

  • Long-term care insurance
  • Life-insurance policy
  • Employer-provided assistance
  • Veterans benefits

Your eligibility for these options vary greatly. For example, if you want to use a life insurance policy to pay, you’ll have to contact your provider to find out the conditions. 

Why Should I Choose One?

A nursing home may or may not be right for your loved one. As a rule of thumb, a nursing home is chosen when around-the-clock medical care is needed. Otherwise, an assisted living arrangement may be a better fit (as well as more affordable). You may get a clearer idea once you visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There may be a center that really meets your needs and that you feel most comfortable in. 

How Can I Find the Right One?

My Caring Plan has a database of over 10,000 nursing homes on its site. You can start your search above. Researching the best option can take time. However, My Caring Plan has aggregate data from several different sources to make your search the easiest possible.

Once you have a list of possibilities, you’ll also want to visit the facilities. This way, you’ll get an in-person look at staff interactions, resident happiness, and nursing home facilities.

At the end of the day, you and your family know what’s best for your situation. A nursing home may be the right option for your loved one to receive 24/7 medical care and assistance with daily tasks, as well as social enrichment. We wish you and your family the best.