Nursing Home Facilities: Top 10 Myths

Myth #1: Nursing Home Facilities Smell Bad

Nursing home facility resident meeting with her doctor

Reality: Most good nursing home facilities rarely smell bad, and when they do, chances are, it will be taken care of promptly. Not only are nursing home facilities inspected by each state on behalf of the Medicare administration every 12-15 months, but they are also inspected by family members and other health professionals, albeit more informally, on a regular basis.

So while you may encounter an unpleasant odor on one visit, it’s likely you may never experience it on subsequent visits. If you do, take it up with the administrator. Nursing home administrators are typically very sensitive to this issue and will take action quickly.

Myth #2: Nursing Home Facilities Are Like Hospitals

Reality: Nursing homes are residential facilities that provide medical care, but they are not like hospitals. The environment in nursing home facilities is much less clinical, for one thing. In addition, community living has a much different feel than a temporary stay in a hospital. Nursing homes offer activities to keep residents engaged in the community and interacting with one another. And as neighbors, residents often form lasting friendships.

Myth #3: The People Who Live In Nursing Home Facilities Are All Dying

Reality: Nursing homes provide continuous medical care for people whose medical conditions require around-the-clock care or monitoring. While it is true that some elderly and terminally ill residents may be dying, at that point they are certified by their doctor to receive hospice (i.e., end-of-life) care, and that is certainly not the case for all residents. Many nursing home residents simply need a higher level of care than is available at an assisted living facility.

Myth #4: All Nursing Homes Are The Same

Reality: This couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is important to carefully research the nursing homes you are considering, because despite stringent federal regulation, all nursing homes are different. This can be a wonderful thing—for example, when it creates a strong sense of community among residents—but it can also have a down side, especially when a facility does not address problems that affect residents’ quality of life and/or quality of care.

Myth #5: Caregivers Can Use Restraints To Control Residents

Reality: Restraints may only be used when it is medically necessary for a resident’s safety or the safety of others. It is unlawful for nursing homes to administer physical or chemical restraints for any other purpose.

Myth #6: Insurance Will Pay For My Nursing Home Care

Reality: It depends on the type of coverage you have. Many people are surprised to learn that Medicare only pays for 100 days of nursing home care per illness, and prior to that, you must meet a number of requirements before you are eligible for benefits.

Also, only the first 20 days are covered in full; the rest requires a significant co-payment ($144.50 per day in 2012). After that point, you are responsible for paying for expenses out of pocket until you become eligible for Medicaid.

Some long-term care insurance policies provide coverage in a nursing home facility, but not all. If you have a long-term care insurance policy that provides nursing home coverage, check your policy to determine your coverage limits and restrictions.

Myth #7: There Is No Privacy In A Nursing Home Facility

Reality: It’s true that there is typically less privacy in a nursing home facility than in other types of senior housing. Most rooms are shared by two residents, and caregivers may enter the room as needed-visitors, too, as desired.

However, nursing homes are required to maintain a private area for visits with family, and most facilities try to respect residents’ privacy as much as is possible. Residents have the right to privacy, and to keep personal belongings and property as long as they don’t interfere with the rights, health or safety of others.

Myth #8: Nursing Home Residents Have Limited Rights

Reality: Nursing home residents retain all of their legal rights once they move in. In addition, Medicare has established a Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights that clearly defines residents’ rights pertaining to: respect, services and fees,money, privacy and medical care.

Myth #9: A Move To A Nursing Home Facility Is A Permanent Move

Reality: Most nursing homes have wings for both long-term care and short-term care. The long-term care wing is for residents, while the short-term care wing houses people who are recovering from an illness, injury or surgery and require rehabilitation. So while a move to a nursing home facility may be permanent for some people, many others return home once they have sufficiently recovered.

Myth #10: Nursing Home Residents Are Always On Caregivers’ Schedules

Reality: It’s true that a structured schedule can enable caregivers to do their jobs in the most efficient manner possible. However, more and more rest homes are recognizing the need to address residents’ needs in a more holistic manner, and in a way that honors their dignity and preferences. This includes empowering residents with more options and autonomy in setting their own schedules.

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Written by senior housing writer Nikki Jong.