Deciding to place a loved one in a nursing home can be a heart-wrenching choice. Making the final decision might be the hardest part of the process, but there are still many issues to face after the decision is made. The nursing home you choose should meet all standards required by law, and of course, you'll then want to negotiate the best contract terms possible. This section contains useful information that can help you ensure that this difficult period goes as smoothly as possible.
What to Look For in a Nursing Home
It goes without saying that the key requirement for a nursing home is that your loved one enjoys living there and feels safe. If you are considering different nursing homes, think about factors such as cleanliness, staff friendliness, whether the residents seem happy, whether recreation is made available, and what amenities are provided. It's a good idea to interview nurses and other staff and to speak with residents, and you might consider asking staff about their understanding of legal duties such as reporting abuse. If the staff appears reluctant or even refuses to allow you to speak with residents, that's probably a good indicator that you should avoid that facility.
Nursing Home Contracts
Nursing home contracts can have a wide variety of different terms. For example, some nursing homes may ask residents to sign a liability waiver so that if a resident is injured, he or she cannot hold the home responsible. If your loved one is covered by Medicare or Medicaid, make sure that the home is properly certified for those programs. Check to see exactly what services are covered by the basic daily rate, as some homes offer more services but at a higher price. It's important to understand each term of the contract to avoid misunderstandings or problems in the future and to ensure that any special needs your loved one may have will be met.
Under federal law, nursing home residents have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to be free of abuse. Residents also have the right to privacy, and the right to voice grievances without retaliation. Some states have passed laws requiring nursing homes to allow residents to choose their own physicians, to prepare meals that suit a resident's religious or dietary needs, and to clearly specify certain terms in residential agreements.
How an Attorney Can Help
It's important that you and your loved one fully understand the rights he or she has as a nursing home resident. An attorney can explain those rights to you, including any additional rights that may be provided by your state. It's also important to understand the laws and regulations that apply to nursing homes in your area and to check whether the nursing home you have chosen or are considering meets requirements. An attorney can also help you and your loved one to understand the terms of the residential agreement, so that your loved one knows his or her rights and obligations, and knows what services the nursing home is agreeing to provide.