Four Things You Didn’t Know About Senior Care Facilities
There are a lot of surprises that people encounter when searching for a senior housing provider. Here are the top four things that most consumers or caregivers don’t know before looking for housing for older adults:
1. You will probably be paying out of pocket for your care. Being on Medicare won’t help you pay for senior housing expenses. First of all, there is almost no government assistance for assisted living or memory care. Some states offer limited support in very specific situations, but, for the most part, you’re on your own when paying for assisted living or memory care.
Skilled nursing facilities are a little different. Medicare will cover a certain number of days following hospitalization, but only if you meet specific criteria. Once you reach that limit or no longer fit their criteria, you’re on your own. At that point, you need to have savings, long term care insurance, qualify for Medicaid, or have family members who can help pay for your care.
2. Skilled nursing facilities are rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Want a quick and easy way to see how things are going at your local nursing home? Check Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare tool. The ratings are from one to five stars, and you can sort across staffing, quality, health inspections, and overall rating.
At this time, Medicare.gov does not rate assisted living or memory care facilities since these are not Medicare-covered services. If you want to find state ratings, you’ll have to spend some time on the internet searching for the state’s rating page. For instance, Texas offers assisted and nursing home directories, along with information related to complaints against each facility.
You should also note that there is some controversy over the usefulness of Medicare.gov’s rating system. Since ratings are calculated using a very brief visit from a regulator, they only provide a snapshot of how things are going in the facility. Take them with a grain of salt, and trust your gut if a facility doesn’t seem safe.
3. There’s a local nursing home ombudsman who can provide you with free help. Since some industry officials argue that nursing home rating aren’t super accurate, you might call your local nursing home ombudsman. Ombudsmen are funded via the Administration on Aging, and there’s even an easy, online tool for finding your local representative.
Your local ombudsman is paid to spend time in senior housing facilities in your area. Ombudsmen help handle complaints and will answer questions about senior housing. They will even follow up with you after you have moved into a facility to see how things are going.
4. You might have to hire your own home health, nurses, or aides, despite the ones that the facility has on duty. Almost all nursing home and assisted living facilitates keep a limited number of staff on duty during the night, when most residents are sleeping. Even during the day, nursing home employees have busy schedules that do not allow them much individual time with residents. If your loved one needs extra attention or care, you might end up having to hire a third party to provide that care. This can range from sitting up all night with the resident (which is more common in cases of dementia where patients can get restless at night) to having home health handle certain issues like medication administration or incontinence care.
Senior housing is a complicated industry. Since there are many different sources of payment, multiple levels of care, and endless service options and packages, it pays to do your homework up front and not be caught off guard.
Virginia Traweek owns SeniorHousingMove.com, a website dedicated to helping seniors, their families and their advisors make the best decision regarding CCRCs. She has written several books for seniors, including: Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All, The Financial & Estate Planner’s Guide to Retirement Communities, and UnSCAMable: How Seniors can Protect Themselves on the Internet.