Choosing a Nursing Home in Washington DC

Choosing A Nursing Home

Deciding to place a family member or loved one into a nursing home is a difficult decision. Choosing the right nursing home can seem overwhelming, but the experienced Washington D.C. elder law attorneys at Bertram & Murphy can help you find the right nursing home in the Washington, D.C. area. With so many choices, insurance issues, and varied amenities, knowing where to begin is daunting. Thankfully, there are many resources to help you find a nursing home that is right for your loved one.

Find the Right Type of Facility

Finding the right type of facility will depend on your loved one’s particular needs or diagnosis. Certain facilities focus on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care. Other facilities might offer specialized activities or programs that your family member needs. Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare is a great resource to help you find the right facility.

Payment and Insurance Considerations

Nursing homes can be very expensive, and Medicare does not pay for long-term care stays in a skilled nursing facility. Other programs, such as Medicaid, can pay for some or all of the cost of a nursing home stay, but there are limitations to these programs which should be discussed with a qualified attorney. Long-term care insurance is another option to help assist with the cost of a nursing home. As with any insurance or other payment method, you should review your family’s financial situation and look for a facility within your budget. Speak with the nursing home director and ask about payment options and insurance acceptance.

Visiting a Nursing Home

Recommendations and reviews will help guide you to a short list of skilled nursing facilities, but the only way to know if the facility is the right one is by visiting. When visiting a nursing home, be sure to observe the residents and staff. Some things to look for include:

  • Smell. With incontinent residents and uneaten/spilled food, nursing homes can be rampant with unpleasant odors. If the home smells particularly strong of urine, then it can be a sign that the facility is not cleaned often. Neglected urine accidents can penetrate floors if not cleaned promptly. This lack of cleanliness can be a telltale sign of the home’s general neglect or lack of staffing.
  • Staff. The greatest asset or downfall of a nursing home is the staff. Often overworked and underpaid, disgruntled or exhausted staff can lead to poor patient care. Talk to the staff and ask them about their shifts. If they are working a lot of overtime, this could indicate staffing issues. Speak with the nursing home’s director and ask about staffing ratios. Observe how the staff interacts with one another: are they spending time on their mobile phones or are they taking time to care for patients?
  • Food. Elderly persons are often on special diets (low salt, no sugar, etc.) which don’t necessarily provide for enticing meals. However, the food in a nursing home should be pleasant and palatable. Walk through the cafeteria, observe the residents eating, and even dine there.
  • Residents. Look at the activity levels of the residents. Are the residents out of their rooms and involved in activities with the staff? If so, this is the sign of a good nursing home that engages its residents. Seeing little to no residents outside of their rooms can be a sign of understaffing or poor resident care.
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