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There comes a time in life when you have to make a decision regarding the long term care of loved ones. There is important information to ask for and consider before deciding on a nursing home. We have a few suggestions:

(1) Preparing for the Search:

All family members should be involved in the research and decision making when it comes to moving your family member to a nursing home. First, you should talk with your family doctor to find out what services, particularly health care and medication scheduling, are needed from any facility.

Also have a detailed list of the services your loved one needs when you start researching facilities. Work with your doctor to make sure you have covered every daily need. Also, if you have a specific health condition, keep in mind “extra care” may apply.

Always ask for recommendations on nursing homes from your doctor, attorney, clergyman, or maybe even your next door neighbor. They all could have prior experience in choosing a nursing home for their loved ones. Also, you can get a list from your local state health department and check the local area agency on aging. You may also want to check the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov.

(2) Costs and Fees:

Nursing homes can be expensive; AARP estimates the cost to be about $50,000 a year per resident. The costs include a Daily Rate (which includes services such as food, laundry, rent, housekeeping, and basic nursing services. Amenities such as a phone or TV cost extra); basic nursing services, and extra fees for medication management, costs of medication, hand-feeding, glucose monitoring, and services such as physical therapy are considered extra. Be sure to get a breakdown before you sign up.

All nursing homes are required to provide a written resident assessment that lists all the services the resident requires along with its fee. This is a care-management tool but you can also use it to estimate the total costs of care.

Finally, choosing to move your loved one into a nursing home may be difficult for both of you. Prepare to involve your loved one if possible by discussing what long term plans they already have made. It will make the transition easier if they understand that you want to make sure their wishes and care come first. Also, be sure and spend the first day with your loved one and continue to visit often.

I would like to thank Leona Crowe, our legal assistant, for helping me research this important topic.

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