Q: Are there differences between a “nursing home” and a skilled nursing facility?
A: The term “nursing home’ is a widely used and often misunderstood term. It has been used to describe anything from a rest home to an acute care hospital. Nursing homes are primarily designed to meet the needs of persons convalescing from illness or to provide long-term nursing care for persons with chronic medical problems. A nursing home is not a hospital and does not provide the acute care found in a hospital setting. The goal of nursing home care is to provide care and treatment to restore or maintain the patient’s highest level of physical, mental and social well being. The term “skilled nursing” refers to a facility that is required to provide continuous (24 hour) nursing supervision.
Q: It is getting harder and harder for my mother to live on her own. What types of programs are available if she refuses to consider a nursing home?
A: Deciding when a person can no longer live alone and needs supportive care can be very difficult. Nursing homes are only one of a range of long-term, comprehensive medical, personal and social services designed to meet the needs of chronically ill, disabled or increasingly frail individuals. There are home and community-based care services available that include:
  • Home health care
  • Respite care
  • Adult day care centers
  • Retirement communities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Hospice care
  • Residential Care Communities

When a person needs 24 hour nursing care and supervision, however, a nursing home may be the best answer.

Q: I have read that many nursing homes are understaffed. How can I find out about staffing?
A: While it is true that today many nursing facilities are searching for qualified help to staff their facilities, the best thing you can do is ask what the ratio of staff to patients is. But you need to understand that these ratios can change daily depending upon the number of residents in the home at the time. When you tour the facility, you can ask yourself if the patients appear to be well taken care of and if the staff appears responsive to the patient needs.
Q: My father is going to have to enter a skilled nursing facility due to his dementia. He is such a finicky eater. Is there any way I could sample the food? I know what he likes.
A: Aurum facilities pride themselves on their food services. Special diets are available and the foodservice departments go to great lengths to provide nutritious and tasty food. Set up an appointment to visit at mealtime and ask if you might have a meal there or speak to the residents about their meal time experiences
Q: My brother and I are beginning to look at some living options for our elderly parents. We see many ads about assisted living. Just what does assisted living provide?
A: Sometimes older persons need assistance with activities of daily living. These may include eating, the ability to move around in one’s home safely, dressing, or bathing oneself. The assistance needed may not require the round-the-clock skilled healthcare a nursing home provides; yet many of these needs cannot be met by living alone. Assisted living residences are designed to meet special personal-service and housing needs and often-certain healthcare needs as well. Choices vary from single or double rooms to suites or apartments. The goal of assisted living is to help people continue living as independently as possible.
Q: Are there any reports I can obtain which provide some way of knowing if the Nursing facility meets certain standards?
A: Your state health department produces a yearly report on the performance of each nursing home that is certified for Medicare or Medicaid. You should review the latest report. It is required to be posted at the facility or you can obtain a copy through your health department. You should talk to the nursing home administrator about the results of the survey. The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) also produces an annual report on nursing home information that allows consumers to compare performances of different nursing homes on a variety of measures.
Q: I always thought that Medicare paid for nursing home care. Now I have been told that is not true. What is the right answer?
A: Medicare pays for at least some of nursing home costs for up to 100 days per benefit period for those who meet coverage requirements and require care in a skilled nursing facility. The patient must have been discharged from a hospital and require daily skilled nursing or skilled rehabilitation services (physical therapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy) that must be performed or supervised by professionals. The hospital discharge planner should provide you with all of the information you need. While it is difficult to plan ahead for the eventuality of a hospitalization and its aftermath, it is a good idea, if you have elderly or frail parents, to seek out information beforehand. Tour local facilities, ask questions and know your rights. Aurum has a toll-free line 1-888-445-2794 and can put you in touch with a professional able to answer your question or direct you to the right sources.