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Five Reasons It’s Not Time For A Nursing Home

Think your aging parent should move to a room in a nursing home like the one in the picture?

The answer is, maybe.  But then again, maybe not.  To be sure when it’s time for a nursing home, you first need to be sure about when it isn’t time.

To move or not to move…

To be clear, I’m not referring here to a short-term stay in a nursing home for rehabilitation, but of becoming a permanent nursing home resident   The latter is a decision that changes many things irrevocably, so if you’re grappling with it right now, keep on reading…

(Incidentally, sites like Housing for Seniors.com can help you find permanent facilities).

Five Reasons It’s Not Time For A Nursing Home

Reason #1: It’s not time for a nursing home because your aging parent can walk well

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of your mom or dad falling in a nursing home is twice that of falling in the community.  Are you surprised by that?  I was too.  And let’s be honest — this is not exactly a selling point for nursing homes.

Think you can guess how the fall risk is reduced inside these facilities?

If you’ve ever been to a nursing home and seen residents in wheelchairs rather than on their feet, then you know the answer.

So what happens when your 89-year-old mother enters a nursing home able to walk, but is encouraged to roll? Over time her leg strength diminishes and along with it, I’d argue, her quality of life…

Reason #2 It’s not time for a nursing home if  good health is on your aging parent’s side!

Nursing homes were created for people who require some sort of treatment, management, observation and/or evaluation by skilled staff.  Skilled staff (as defined by Medicare) include nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, audiologists and speech pathologists. Examples of care that only a skilled staff member can provide would include wound care, physical therapy and/or intravenous injections.

Needs that fall outside of those described above (think bathing and grocery shopping) would be considered unskilled. If your aging parent has unskilled needs alone, moving him or her into a nursing home is likely to be overkill – like trying to hit a nail into the wall with a sledgehammer. 😉


Reason #3 It’s not time for a nursing home if your parent is safe at home and prefers to live there.

One of the toughest things for an adult daughter or son to do is to recognize what’s working “well enough” and then leave it alone. So your aging parent lives happily at home but your top concern is safety?  Join the club! Then quit the talk about a nursing home.  Now’s the time to prevent a fall by:

  1. Making sure all rooms in your parent’s house are well lit and free of clutter, etc.;
  2. Broaching the topic of some adaptive equipment for the bathroom and maybe even a medical alert bracelet;
  3. Thanking your lucky stars that your aging parent is doing so well (many peoples’ parents are not)

Reason #4 It’s not time for a nursing home if you can hire enough help to give you respite and meet your aging parent’s needs.

Now we’ve arrived at the tricky place.  If you can’t (or your parent can’t) afford to hire help at home, then ask yourself this: Can one of you afford the cost of a nursing home?

That’s right, folks!  Medicare does not pay for nursing homes after the first 20 days and even then your aging parent must have a skilled need. So if you were thinking that a nursing home would be the most cost-effective long term care option for your parent, think again.

Nursing homes cost $10,000 – $13,000 per month depending upon where your aging parent lives.  Yup, you read that right – $10,000 – $13,000 per MONTH if he/she doesn’t have Medicaid. Even at a cost of $20 per hour, home care would still cost less.

Reason #5 Your aging parent is connected to a physician whom they trust

It’s hard to overstate the value of your aging parent being known to a physician in the community who will take his/her calls and even more importantly, take interest in helping your parent to manage his/her health over time.  It’s a priceless relationship and a move to a nursing home could sever it.

Once at the nursing home, your aging parent’s care will be managed by a staff physician who is required to follow the nursing home’s protocols.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Meghan O'Sullivan January 20, 2011, 11:55 AM

    The use of technology is often overlooked at this in between stage. The senior needs some support and the caregiver is concerned about their wellbeing. Affordable wireless technology can provide that support. It could alert the caregiver to any problems without having to pay a home attendant to be there “just in case”. Technology can also help with medication managment. I know that you mentioned the MD2 in a past blog but Tabsafe is a great alternative. It can provide PRN medications, and dispenses up to 7 days in advance if a trip is planned. They also have pharmacies that can load the medication into the tray for easy use. Living independently is something almost everyone desires and being safe and supported is the key to a long independent life.

  • firstSTREET January 19, 2011, 4:21 PM

    This is an excellent post, and very important information for both caregivers and family members of senior citizens. Sometimes there is such a rush to put people into nursing homes, and this may not always be the best solution. There are numerous different varieties of elder care, and as you mention here, the type of care should match the needs of the individual. You make some great points here about how too much or unnecessary care might actually make some conditions worse. Thanks for sharing!

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