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Nursing Homes

Read this before putting your parent in a nursing home.

Today's working families are often faced with the realization that there's no one family member who can stay home and care for an elderly parent. In some cases, a family member may suffer from a debilitating disease which requires constant nursing care. One of the options available to these families is a nursing home, also referred to as a long-term care facility.


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Federal and state laws set standards that the various types of nursing homes must meet. A license to operate a nursing home will not be issued by the state regulatory agency unless the facility has complied with minimum standards set out in state law. The agency responsible for monitoring nursing homes may vary, but in most states the responsibility belongs to the Department of Health.

Of course, just because a nursing home meets minimum government standards doesn't mean it's right for your parent. Most of us would prefer to have our elderly relatives living in a facility that goes far beyond the minimum. That's why you should be sure to check out any nursing home personally. You'll want to be sure that your parent is getting high quality care, and government regulators just aren't equipped to do much more than enforce the minimum standards necessary to protect residents health and safety.

Nursing homes can be very expensive, with annual charges at some homes in excess of $70,000. When asking about the monthly charge for care, be sure to find out what services are included in that charge. The nursing home staff should tell you what services require additional payment, whether you must give the nursing home a deposit and what procedure must be followed to obtain a return of that deposit.

Another important question is whether the nursing home is certified under Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare will only pay for skilled nursing home care if it occurs within 30 days of a hospital stay. The full cost of such nursing home care is paid by Medicare for the first 20 days. For stays that last over 20 days, Medicare will only pay a percentage of costs up to 100 days. After 100 days the resident is entirely responsible for the cost.

Medicaid will pay for care in both skilled and intermediate care facilities. If the facility accepts Medicaid as payment, you cannot be billed for any costs that are included in that Medicaid reimbursement. You are entitled to keep a portion of each month's income as a personal needs allowance.

Copyright 1999 ProSe Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

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