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Most families place older members in nursing homes only after considerable research, knowing that assisted living and around clock the care facilities are not a perfect solution. An Internet connection and a web cam, however, making checking up easier.

Most families don't place older members into nursing homes until there simply isn't an alternative. If your 250-pound father is immobile after a massive stroke, you can't risk danger to him or to yourself by trying to move him without help. If your 92-year-old mother loves to take walks but doesn't remember to come home, you probably can't lock every door in the house, go off to work or shopping or a social engagement, and just hope for the best. And sometimes hospitals will only discharge family members to skilled nursing care.

Nursing Home Care Is Extremely Expensive

In the United States, the first 20 days of skilled nursing care often is paid by Medicare.

On certification that the stay in the nursing facility will improve the health of the covered person being admitted, short stays in the home may not cost a family anything. If the family member cannot or will not participate in rehabilitative or occupational therapy, however, Medicare may refuse to pay for the stay.  

According to the According the annual Genworth 2014 Cost of Care Survey, which contacted over 14,800 care providers, the average annual rate of a private room in a nursing home in the Unites States is $87,600. The $1000 to $2000 a week charge for staying in the nursing home must be paid by the patient, the family, or wonderful, wealthy friends, or it is necessary to apply for Medicaid. State-run Medicaid programs will pay for nursing care (usually a lot less than you would have to), but they require giving up all assets and all retirement income except for $5 to $20 a week for personal expenses.

Nursing Home Horror Stories And How To Avoid Them

Horrendous stories of poor nursing home care abound. It's not unusual to find case reports of violence on nursing home members by staff. It is distressingly common to find out nursing home residents have bedsores, or rashes from being left in their own urine or feces, or losing weight because they aren't fed.

A shocking number of elders are allowed to die of dehydration, sometimes in less than 24 hours after a family member has sat down with the resident and made sure they enjoyed a good meal.

But there are some things families can do to recognize potential problems and avoid them.

  • Personal touches indicate personal freedom. If an elderly person has advanced Alzheimer's, chances are they won't have many personal items in their room. But when people are well enough to move around or be moved around outside their rooms, personal mementos, photos, flowers, electronics, and so on, are a good sign that patients are afforded respect by nursing home staff.
  • Good nursing homes make sure their residents are well groomed and neatly dressed. If personal appearance is maintained, personal hygiene probably is, too.
  • Stable staffing indicates good care. If you meet staff members who have been on the job for 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years, chances are the facility is well run.
  • Good nursing homes pass state inspections. ProPublica, which is linked below, maintains a comprehensive database of nursing home violations and fines.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Paula Span. The New Old Age: In Nursing Homes, Eyes That Never Turn Away. New York Times. 8 October 2014.
  • Mind map by SteadyHealth.com
  • Photo courtesy of Simaje via Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/simajr/4182107550

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