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What I Would Tell Baby Boomers About Nursing Homes

September 2, 2008
by Kathleen Mears
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My fellow baby boomers need to find out who pays for long-term care. Most hospitals discharge patients quickly, and those who cannot go home, go to nursing homes to recuperate. Know what your insurance will cover. Get information on Medicare payment, and how to qualify for Medicaid. Though rehab is usually short-term, adjustment is required. The facility is your home while you recover. Depending on the circumstances, a rehabilitation stay can turn into long-term care.

Whether the stay is short or long, learn how nursing homes are run. Read as much as you can about long-term care issues. If you have had no long-term care experience yourself, talk with friends and neighbors who have. Nursing homes are rated based on the yearly survey done by the state's Department of Health and ratings are available on the Internet. There are web sites about nursing home living and some have comments from family members of residents. Your state ombudsman's web site and office will also give you information about residents' rights.

Get familiar with the long-term care facilities in your area. Visit them without notice and look around. Select occupied rooms to see the available space. Ask to see the communal shower rooms. Talk with people in your community about their experiences with particular facilities. Make an appointment later with the administrator and any other available staff. Ask why they are in the healthcare field, but be aware that they will be marketing the facility.

Find out if your doctor will be able to care for you at a facility. If he cannot, ask if you can choose a physician. In some nursing homes the medical director will be your physician. You can check out physicians online at your state medical board's Web site.

Nursing home life is definitely a culture change. Though nursing homes are trying to improve their environment and services, they are still structured and institutional. Meals and activities are scheduled Therapy will schedule with your preferred daily routine in mind. But since therapists work limited hours, you will have to conform. .

Meet as many staff as possible. If you have questions, ask them and make sure you get answers. Ask what activities are offered and request a monthly activities calendar. Ask who your 'go to' person is if you have a difficulty. Nursing homes have a 'chain of command' and it is wise to follow it.

Even if you are on a special diet, you should have some food choices. Talk to the dietitian and dietary manager to make those choices known. Your dislikes are recorded, but you may have to reiterate them before they are removed from your diet. Remember there are many residents to please, and things can be overlooked. If you are unhappy with the food, register your complaints in a reasonable way.

Ask what things you cannot bring to the facility. Bring what makes you comfortable. Most residents bring photos, books, favorite furniture, radios, CD players, DVD players, and cell phones. Some bring bed clothes, towels, and sometimes their own coffee mug. Bring your favorite soap. But realize that liquid soap is more hygienic than bar soap. Put your name on all items with an indelible marker. If you need a lamp or special magnification device for reading, bring them along too. If you want to bring your computer, ask the facility what you need to get connected. Put your things away and keep track of them.


Kathleen Mears



Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...