Last week, Mom was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, E. Coli bacteria and a possible mini-stroke. After 4-days in the hospital, she was transferred to a nursing home for at short-term rehabilitation stay (both physical and occupational).
Times like these can be extremely emotional for both patient and family. There are some things you can do as a son or daughter to lessen the impact.
The hospital discharge person wants to do their job and ‘discharge’. They may not be as careful about where to discharge as you would want them to be. They are looking for an ‘available bed’. You are looking for a home away from home and typically, there isn’t a lot of time to research.
- Research nursing homes at www.medicare.gov and click on the ‘nursing home compare’ button. You could start with homes in your area and fan out from there. Medicare collects information and ranks nursing homes throughout the country – staffing, inspection info, quality of care.
- When you visit a facility for the first time, pay attention to how it looks (clean, cheerful, bustling, attentive) and how it smells (don’t even have to explain).
- If possible, visit at different times of the day. Talk to staff (aides, therapy, dining hall, reception). Ask questions.
- Ask friends, family, people at your church/work/library if they know anything about the facilities you are considering. Google it (and I don’t mean just going out to the facility’s website).
- Every state has a long-term care ombudsman. You can find yours at http://www.ltcombudsman.org/ombudsman. Long-Term Care Ombudsman are advocates for families and residents of nursing homes. They provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are there to assist, to answer questions and to help resolve issues.
Once you’ve found a facility (or 3) you feel comfortable with, the hospital discharge person will phone on your behalf to hopefully acquire an available bed. This is not a guarantee, but now they have direction from you and (at least in my experience) will do their best to help make it happen.
If there is a hospital stay of at least 3 nights (known as a ‘qualifying hospital stay’), Medicare pays for ‘medically necessary’ skilled nursing care (or home health care), like physical or occupational therapy. Generally, Medicare will not pay for long-term care or custodial care (dressing, bathing, bathroom, etc).
If long-term nursing care becomes necessary, payment will have to be made privately (out of the patient’s own pocket) or if financially allowable, through Medicaid (a whole separate blog entry).
It isn’t easy to consider, but short-term stays often become long-term. You should take care and pay attention from the beginning. I may think the bumper sticker “Be nice to your kids because they get to choose your nursing home” is in poor taste, but I get it…
PS…After extensive research and personal experience, Mom is staying at Vernon Manor in Vernon, CT. Dad was there for a long-term stay and generally, the staff is incredibly warm and caring (particularly the nurse’s aides who definitely do not get paid enough). In a situation with only difficult options, the decision for Mom was not as tough as it could have been.