The population of those 65 and older will explode in the U.S. over the next two decades as the Baby Boomers age into retirement. This will translate into higher demand for retirement living options, such as nursing home facilities. More to the point, it will create a sharp uptick in the number of nursing home residents from the current, approximately 1.3 million.
Of course, for anyone considering a move into a nursing home in the near future, there are some pressing questions. Such as, how much does a nursing home cost? Also, what kinds of services are available?
If you’re wondering about these questions, keep reading for our nursing home guide that covers the essentials of services and costs.
What Is a Nursing Home?
A nursing home is a different animal than an assisted living facility or a retirement community. Assisted living and retirement communities focus more on the social and lifestyle components of care.
While assisted living facilities typically offer some medical care, it’s secondary to lifestyle components and often limited to things like medication management. The facilities aren’t built around medical treatment or care.
A nursing home is a much more clinical setting. For example, a nursing home will likely invest in software that helps them with case management in aged care.
In essence, a nursing home focuses its attention and design on providing long-term medical care first and supporting an independent lifestyle second.
You see this reflected in the kind of staff that nursing homes hire. Much of the staff will consist of RNs, LVNs, LPNs, certified nursing assistants, and physical therapists.
Nursing Home Services
As a general rule, a nursing home provides residents with what is known as custodial care. That includes things like:
- Providing meals
- Assistance with personal grooming — bathing and dressing
- Help to get into bed or out of bed
Nursing homes also provide a wide range of medical care. For example, nursing homes may provide occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy.
The nursing home typically takes charge of managing residents’ medications. In some cases, the medical staff will also administer medication if the resident cannot or a medical professional must administer a shot.
Most nursing homes can also handle low-level medical procedures, such as treating cuts and abrasions. Although, they typically do not treat more serious injuries or perform surgical procedures.
In some cases, nursing homes offer specialized care for a particular group. For example, a nursing home may specialize in providing care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. These facilities often specialize because they require staff with specific training in Alzheimer’s care.
Benefits of Nursing Homes
Nursing homes offer several benefits that other senior living options cannot provide. Right at the top of the list is that medical care is available around the clock.
Most nursing homes have multiple nurses on duty at any given time. In addition, nursing homes typically have doctors on staff who can provide more advanced care if the need arises.
Nursing homes often provide healthier and more balanced meals than seniors might make for themselves at home. This is particularly relevant if a doctor puts someone on a specific meal plan to help manage something like cholesterol or high blood pressure.
While nursing homes don’t specialize in lifestyle, they do provide an opportunity for socializing that many seniors lack while living at home. Socializing has several mental health benefits, including:
- Mood improvement
- Improved cognition
- Improved well-being
- Improved memory
The odds of accidents while living at home are unfortunately high for seniors, particularly trips and falls. Nursing homes provide safer environments that limit those risks.
Picking a Nursing Home
Selecting a nursing home is a sometimes difficult task, particularly if you must decide on a family member. So, how do you pick?
Ask for recommendations. Reach out to family members and trusted friends for advice on nearby nursing homes. Local social workers and religious organizations can also help you find nursing home facilities and provide some feedback.
Does the facility offer the right kind of care? Do you or a loved one simply need help with daily tasks or some form of specialized care?
Schedule a visit and meet with the staff. Look around the facility and ask some questions.
Go back without letting anyone know you’re coming. Talk with different staff members and see if you get the same vibe from the place.
If possible, interact with some of the residents away from staff members. Ask for their opinions about the facility, staff, and care. Getting an unvarnished opinion from a resident can expose problems you might not otherwise notice.
Consider the proximity to family. The farther away a nursing home is from where relatives live, the less likely people are to visit. A lack of visits can leave someone in a nursing home feeling abandoned.
How Much Does a Nursing Home Cost?
Nursing home care isn’t cheap in America. The national average for a private room runs a little over $100,000 per year. The cost in specific states and cities can run substantially higher or lower.
You can plan ahead for these costs with long-term care insurance. Medigap plans and some private insurance can also help offset the total costs.
Medicare will cover costs for about three months if someone transfers straight from hospital care. For those with limited financial means, Medicaid will often cover the full costs of nursing home care, but you must make sure the facility accepts Medicaid.
Nursing Home Cost and You
The question of how much does a nursing home cost matters. With a $100,000 a year average price tag, how could it not? That’s more than a lot of people make a year while working full time.
The good news is that there are things you can do to manage those costs, such as insurance. Even if you lack those insurance plans, Medicaid will cover nursing home costs if you’re in bad financial straits.
Looking for more senior living tips? Check out some more of our posts over in our Lifestyle section.