When someone you love needs nursing home care, finding the appropriate place can be financially and emotionally daunting. To help ease your burden when it comes to placement options, facility selection, and insurance, here are a few guidelines:
Determine what services are needed. Most of us deal with nursing homes after a parent, relative, or spouse needs long-term care. “My mother has had three strokes since 2002,” says Micheline Ridley Malson, a consultant for faith- and community-based organizations in Durham, North Carolina. “After the first two, I hoped she could live with me or in her own house, so I looked for a nursing home that could provide rehabilitation services.” But when her mother had her third stroke, Malson then “wanted to find a nursing home equipped to provide the kind of constant care she would need.”
Size up the right location. You’ll probably want to put your loved one in a nursing home near you. Often, local agencies can tell you what services facilities offer and which have vacancies. Malson says she received invaluable help from a Durham-based senior citizens council and the state’s Department of Social Services.
Understand that money matters. “Nursing homes in this area alone cost about $5,000 a month,” says Ed Fulbright, a financial planner in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, who advises Malson. Fees are even higher in other parts of the country. Therefore, have a plan for where funding will come from, no matter where you live. Keep in mind that Medicare may pay for some medical treatments but not all. Medicaid is a needs-based program, so thorough disclosure of the applicant’s financial situation is required. Long-term care insurance can help policyholders pay nursing home bills, but insurance companies are understandably reluctant to sell policies to someone who will be going into a nursing home immediately.
If your parents are relatively young and healthy, encourage them to seek such coverage — and check into buying a policy for yourself. “The perfect age to purchase this insurance is between 50 and 62,” says Fulbright. “People under 50 years old are normally too far from needing long-term care to consider buying insurance, while premiums become much more expensive as you grow older, especially after age 70.”