Long-Term Nursing Care: Steps for Placing Your Loved One

Seniors with major health conditions may need long-term nursing care if, for example, they have dementia, Parkinson’s disease, physical limitations caused by a stroke, or they can’t return home independently after a hospitalization.

When families face the prospect of placing a loved one in a long-term nursing care facility, challenging questions arise.

How Do I Choose a Long-Term Nursing Care Facility?

Ask your doctor for recommendations. Ask friends with relatives in nursing homes if they are receiving good care. If your family member will soon be discharged from the hospital, ask the hospital discharge planner for recommendations.

Once you have a list of facilities, there are several ways to check their quality of care. Look at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Nursing Home Compare website for five-star ratings and inspection records of nursing homes that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds. These facilities are usually inspected annually and must meet federal standards in order to participate.

The United States Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116) can refer you to a state or local long-term care ombudsman who visits facilities to check on complaints and protect residents’ rights. The ombudsman can give you information on inspections reports, types of complaints and results of recent complaint investigations.

Visit facilities and observe carefully. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the place clean, cheerful and safe?
  • Are residents sitting idly in hallways or engaged in activities?
  • What is the nurse-to-patient ratio?
  • How do staff (nurses as well as nursing assistants) treat patients?
  • Are physical and occupational therapists working with residents on a regular basis?
  • Is the facility licensed?
  • When was it last inspected?

In the end, trust your gut. If a facility doesn’t feel appropriate, keep looking.

How Do I Pay For Long-Term Nursing Care?

The cost of long-term nursing care varies widely across the country. According to MetLife Inc.’s Mature Market Institute, the national average cost for a private room in a nursing home was $239 a day in 2011.

Medicare and Medicaid cover about two-thirds of nursing home residents, but there are some limitations to coverage. If your family member is a veteran, check with the Veterans Administration about possible coverage.

When visiting facilities, ask social workers/case managers what is covered, what isn’t and for how long. You may also want to talk with a financial advisor about other ways to finance long-term care.

How Do I Prepare a Loved One to Go to a Facility?

Most people want to remain at home, so it can be difficult to convince your loved one that a long-term nursing care facility is necessary when medical care and daily supervision can’t be provided at home. You may need to enlist your loved one’s doctor. Often doctors or nurses are more persuasive than a relative.

Preparation is important. If possible, take your relative to visit first or talk with someone who lives there. Show him or her pictures or brochures about the facility. Listen and acknowledge concerns, but point out that this is in his or her best interest to receive the correct level of care no matter at home or in a long-term nursing care facility. 

Find Long-Term Nursing Care

If you are trying to find long-term nursing care for a parent or loved one, we can help. Our directory lists hundreds of nursing homes nationwide to help you find long-term nursing care in your local area.

Written by senior housing writer Martha Jablow.