Below is a guest post by Jane Allison Austin (see bio at bottom of post)
Myth: If you walk into a nursing home and it smells, that’s okay, they’re all like that. The nature of the beast.
Truth: Get away from the beast as fast as you can run, don’t even explain to the attendants, just walk away. Bad smells mean that collectively they are not changing their patients as needed and the staff (or willingness of the staff) may be very limited. Even downright lazy. “Mr. Lazar wouldn’t let me change him, what could I do?” Yeah, right. Certainly, no administrator who would allow his or her facility to smell (and they can just get used to it, like we can anything) is not someone whose staff you want to put in charge of you or your loved one’s care.
Myth: If I’m coming out of the hospital, Medicare will only pay for the least expensive skilled nursing facility in my area.
Truth: If you spend THREE overnights, not days, but overnights in the hospital, Medicare will pay for as long as medically-determined for your stay in either the best or worst facility. Before you or Mom and Dad has to go to the hospital, unexpected or not, go look for the best skilled nursing facilities in your area. The discharge planner/case manager at the hospital, whom you usually meet on the second day of a hospital stay, will give you a list, but ethically can’t tell you which place to go.
It’s the Match Game of the 21st century. You pick three off the list. Whatever day Mom or Dad is discharged, the discharge planner calls to see if there’s a bed available. If there is, that’s where you go. They’re not looking for the best place for Mom and Dad. In fact, they may even have their own favorites where they send referrals, as long as it’s one of the ones you picked.
Caveat: There may be just ONE great facility in your area. The others may be sub-par significantly. Be armed ahead of time with which one is the best. Tell the hospital’s discharge planner that is where you want to go. They will typically say it’s not guaranteed, plus they won’t know exactly when Mom or Dad is coming out so they can’t plan ahead. No, but you can. Call the Admissions Director of the skilled nursing facility, tell them your parent’s in the hospital, coming out in the next few days from knee surgery, stroke, etc., and that you have heard wonderful things about them from the community, they are the place to be. Ask them if it looks like they might have a male or female bed coming up. Be persistent. Be your own discharge planner. Stay in touch with the admissions director at the skilled facility, and when it’s time for Mom or Dad to come out (usually you’ll know the night before or morning of) call to see if there’s a bed, and if yes, tell whoever is the discharge planner that day at the hospital, that that is where you want Mom or Dad to go.
The best facilities want Medicare patients. And you can get the best physical and occupational therapy, food, and great hygiene care there. When you’re forced to, that’s how you want to live on Uncle Sam’s dime.
Jane Allison Austin is an elder care consultant, advocate and attorney. She is also the founder of Love Your Parents