Choosing a Skilled Care Facility

A skilled nursing facility generally refers to a housing facility that offers the highest level of care, a full-service home for convalescence, including full medical staff. It may also be called a nursing home, although this term has become sort of a catch-all for any facility that cares for the elderly or special needs people.

There are a lot of things to consider once you’ve decided to house your loved one in a full-service nursing facility. You want your loved one to get the best care within your budget, and you want to be sure she is comfortable. There are some questions you’ll need to ask yourself and the professionals at the skilled care facility before you decide to make a commitment.

Nice shot of a skilled nursing facility

What is available?
Before you ultimately decide on a skilled care facility, you should make sure it’s what your loved one needs. Among nursing homes, there is a variation on the levels of skill required to work there or the level of service provided. Make sure your loved one is getting the care they need without feeling controlled.

What type of care is provided?
You’ll need to have a good idea of what kind of care your loved one needs to be able to adequately judge which care facility is right for her. You may need a list of her medications and routine procedures, and ask what kind of skill sets the staff has. This may require power of attorney, as doctors are bound by HIPAA to keep their patients’ records private. But you, and your loved one, should know what she needs and whether the staff will be able to provide it.

Where is the skilled nursing facility located?
Your care facility should be located a short driving distance from your or another relative’s home so that she can be visited regularly. Regular visits not only keep her spirits up, but they also allow you to keep an eye on her physical condition so her health doesn’t deteriorate. Ideally, the care facility should be located in or near your loved one’s neighborhood so that she can have a sense of familiarity.

Is the facility affordable?
Cost is always an issue when it comes to adult care and skilled nursing. Ideally, insurance would cover the cost, or your relative would have saved up a nest egg for this moment. Unfortunately, that rarely happens, and you have to find ways to fit her care into your–and her–budget. This means finding out what the monthly cost of the facility is, what that covers, and any additional costs you might face.

Patient in a wheelchair in a skilled nursing facility

How much control will my loved one get over her own care?
It’s important for seniors to feel in control over their care to the extent they’re capable. That means changing doctors, requesting different medications or therapies, and smaller details like choosing roommates, and activities they can pursue. Ask the facility’s administrator what kind of control your loved one will have over her own stay at the facility.

Is the skilled nursing facility accredited?
This is an important factor. You need to check with the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to make sure the facility you’re considering meets the state accreditation requirements, as well as your personal credential requirements.

What about policies?
This is important for your loved one’s quality of life. You’ll need to know what kind of visitor policies there are, whether the patient is free to leave at her leisure, if there is Internet, phone, and TV access, etc. It’s important that you know what the policies are so you can choose the right facility for your family member.

How safe is the skilled nursing home?
You’ll need to know whether clearance is needed to enter the facility, certain buildings, or the grounds, or if the campus is open. As important as it is for your family member to have freedom, you want the facility to be secure, and you don’t want complete strangers having access to your loved one or her belongings without security. Make inquiries as to what kind of security measures they have in place.

These questions should help you make a decision about what kind of skilled nursing facility your family member should live in. It’s important to get the best care possible for your family member within the bounds of care needs and cost. Interview several skilled nursing facilities until you’re sure you’ve found the right one, and check in periodically once you’ve made your decision.