granddaughter and elderly grandmother smiling and laughing

There comes a time when a family or caregiver recognizes that the level of care needed for a loved one surpasses what is possible at home. If both medical and personal care needs become too great for a family or individual caregiver to administer, then it is time to consider alternative living arrangements for the loved one. Additional help is often needed after a recent hospitalization or due to a chronic illness that is worsening.

A Skilled Nursing Facility is an option to consider depending on the level of care required. Chronic illness that is worsening is a reason to consider long-term care in a skilled facility; however, short-term skilled nursing care is also available. For instance, if your loved one needs temporary higher levels of care after a hospitalization, then a skilled facility can provide rehabilitative care to return the patient to home, or to an independent living community or an Assisted Living Facility. Assisted living facilities are suitable for loved ones requiring help with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and eating, but do not require long-term nursing care.

Admittedly, choosing alternative living for a loved one can be a stressful experience simply due to recognizing that your loved one has reached this point of care needed in his/her life. It is also a time when the family or individual caregiver admits to having limitations. Learning as much as possible about skilled facilities, assisted living facilities and independent living communities in your area of choice will help greatly to ease worry and help dispel any misconceptions about this transitional time in your loved one’s life. Knowing and accepting that levels of personal grief and periods of adjustment are a part of the transition process will also help everyone involved be more confident in the decisions that are to be made.

The Good News

Skilled Nursing Facility teams are specially trained to provide your loved one with the medical and emotional care needed. Trained professionals are available 24 hours a day to assist with all health-related issues, and safety measures are in place to respond to emergency situations.

In addition, your loved one will benefit from health-boosting daily activities, such as exercise classes, music therapy, beauty/barbershop visits, religious services, games of bingo, community field trips, and so much more. Skilled facilities are better known as resorts for seniors with home-like amenities, fine dining experiences, resident pets, and spacious accommodations including private suites and semi-private rooms with cable or satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and access to spa-like shower rooms.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires skilled nursing facilities to provide comfortable bedding, rooms with windows, furniture adequate for storage, and opportunities to customize individual living spaces, all of which skilled facility teams are happy to facilitate.

Peace of mind comes to families and caregivers recognizing that their loved one will truly be cared for with trained staff available 24 hours a day and have access to a fun environment focused on fostering an improved quality of life.

Consider Before Moving In

During visits to skilled facilities, consider these factors as you make decisions regarding your loved one’s move:

  • Room layout – Is there enough floor space, especially to accommodate a wheelchair, mobility aid or caregiver assisting your loved one?
  • Furniture provided – Is there enough storage space, and if not, can you bring in pieces from home that are compliant with state fire codes?
  • What is included in the fee, such as laundry services, phone calls, and personal care products?
  • What is available at an additional cost, such as beauty and barbershop visits?
  • Understand the costs of care – What does Medicare, Medicaid and/or private insurance pay?
  • Understand the skilled nursing facility’s agreement before moving in.
  • Support groups – Does the skilled facility’s social worker have information on community resources available to families for addressing any feelings that may come up during this transitional time?

What to Pack

Noting that it’s recommended to leave family heirlooms, items of great value, large amounts of cash, and medications at home, practicalities should influence the packing list.

Prior to, day-of & after admission

Before moving your loved one into a Skilled Nursing Facility, plan time with the staff to review what types of care you provided and share what worked well, as well as what did not, what problems exist and therapies that may help, and be sure you know what is expected of you and the family. Ask the staff what to expect on the day of move-in. Also note, it is sometimes easier to designate one family member to receive all information and then communicate that information with others.

On the day of move-in, prepare to stay the day to allow time to address things that may come up or to provide support to your loved one as he/she transitions into the new environment.

Becoming a partner with the staff and an advocate for your loved one’s care is a win-win for all. Listen to the staff’s input, be reasonable with expectations and communicate any concerns or comments with the facility staff. Be sure to attend scheduled care conferences, and compliment and appreciate the staff for good care delivered.