I imagine most people agree with me that the last place they want to find themselves is resident at a skilled nursing facility. When someone gets to the point that they need this level of care, their perspective sometimes changes, as they are faced with the reality that their continued care at home is a burden for their family, practically, financially and emotionally. That’s not the way anyone in the family wants it to be. Still, sometimes, the nursing home is the right answer.
At Clarity Legal Group, when our clients or the family member of a client reach this point, we hope they loop us into the conversation. Sometimes there are solutions for payment or asset protection as to which we can help. For our clients who have long term care insurance to pay for this kind of care, we are increasingly seeing clients having problems with the insurance copy making good on their obligations to pay. We can help.
But more fundamentally, the case is often that because moving a loved one to a nursing home is considered such a hard thing to do, the family waits until it is in a crisis to take action. This means less opportunity to investigate and find the right option for you situation. If you find that a spouse, parent, grandparent, or other older loved one has reached a point where nursing home care is necessary, choosing a facility can be an emotional — and stressful – experience. So many factors go into picking the right facility for a loved one. With all of that in mind, I have put together some general information and tips to help in the search for the right nursing home.
Should I Be Worried about Nursing Home Abuse?
The older population in the United States has grown at a historic rate over the last several decades and is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future. The growth in the elder population has caused the issue of elder abuse to also rise to the forefront of the American conscience. For anyone who has a loved one in a nursing home, the fear that their loved one could become the victim of abuse is a very real – and valid – concern. Consider the following facts and figures relating to nursing home abuse:
- As many as 5 million elders are abused each year.
- It is thought that 1 in 10 elders over the age of 60 have been abused.
- One study reported that as many as 24.3 percent of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a nursing home.
- Another study estimates only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are formally reported.
Choosing the Right Nursing Home
The elder abuse statistics are frightening; however, I sincerely believe real abuse in long-term care facilities is the exception rather than the rule. Still, nursing homes are typically for profit businesses doing a very hard job. They can make compromises that have an impact for their residents. Obviously, you are looking for a nursing home organized and staffed to provide competent and compassionate care to the residents. The key to finding one of those facilities is to do your research and ask the right questions when you are choosing a facility. Examples of questions to ask include:
- What is your staff-to-patient ratio?
- Is there a medical doctor on call 24/7?
- What is your procedure if a resident has an abuse or neglect complaint?
- What type of background investigation do you do on new hires?
- What is your staff turnover rate?
- Have you ever been disciplined or fined for a violation of state or federal laws or regulations?
- Do you allow the family to hire outside caregivers to supervise the care?
- What social programs and/or activities are available for residents?
- Can I visit my family member anytime I want?
- Do residents have options for meals or is there a set menu for each meal?
- Do you offer transportation services?
In addition to asking questions, I urge clients to take the time to do their own research into facilities in your area. A good place to begin that research is with the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation, Nursing Home Licensure and Certification Section, the agency responsible for licensing and investigation of complaints about nursing homes in North Carolina. You will also find a list of licensed nursing homes on the agency’s website. Another excellent source of information is the official Medicare.gov website where you will find the Nursing Home Compare tool, a searchable database full of information on nursing homes across the country. When you are considering a nursing home, try and interview current employees and residents if possible. Along with making an official visit to the facility, show up unannounced as well to see how the facility runs when they are not expecting potential clients. Above all else, trust your gut instinct. If your instincts are telling you that something doesn’t feel right at the facility, it probably isn’t right. On the other hand, if you get a positive and comforting feeling at the nursing home, pay attention to that feeling as well.
Contact Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys
If you have additional questions or would like assistance with regarding nursing home planning or elder law issues, please contact the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill estate planning and elder law attorneys at Clarity Legal Group by calling us at 919-484-0012 or contactus online.