If someone you love needs nursing home care, brace yourself for sticker shock. Depending on where you live, the monthly cost can be $8,000 or more—often much more. In some parts of the country nursing home care can cost upwards of $15,000 per month.
Does a high monthly payment equal great care? We posed this question to Linda Anderson, a Certified Elder Law Attorney and founder of Anderson Elder Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Media, Pennsylvania. Linda says that most of the clients she sees have never had to make monthly payments of this magnitude before, even if Medicaid is picking up the tab. “Many people think that if the care costs more, it is automatically better,” Linda said. “They think that if they are paying $14,000 per month, the going rate for facilities in the Philadelphia area, they must be getting a Cadillac. That’s rarely the case.”
Family caregivers are often shocked to discover that $10,000 a month buys their loved one a semi-private room, 30-minute waits for help to the bathroom, and recurring bedsores. It might be tempting to take these slights personally, but Linda advises against it. “If you know how to be an advocate for your loved one, you can get great care for your loved one without spiraling into disappointment,” she explained.
Here's how to become the advocate your loved one needs:
Understand the Continuum of Care
The elder care journey progresses in much the same way for everyone. A tool like the Elder Care Continuum makes that journey easier to visualize. “Everybody thinks they’ll die in their sleep, yet more than 60% of older adults will spend time in a skilled nursing facility,” Linda explained. “The transitions are predictable. If you know what’s coming, you’re less likely to be surprised.”
Get the Right Help
Look for an elder law firm that can meet all your needs under one roof. “It’s not just about getting the highest quality providers in the least restrictive setting, it’s about having a navigator throughout the journey,” Linda advised. “Elder law attorneys at Life Care Planning Law Firms understand how to pull together the continuum of care, manage the expected transitions, tie in the sources of funding, and make sure that everything is coordinated simultaneously.”
Understand Medicare and Medicaid
Public benefits can be confusing, and that’s where working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm can be helpful, especially if your loved one needs Medicare-paid rehab after an illness or injury, or long-term services and supports paid for by Medicaid. “It’s important to be an informed user,” Linda said.
Know How to Complain
There’s a fine art to issuing a complaint, especially in a nursing home, and it requires an understanding of the chain of command at your facility. “Many of us want to start at the top when there’s a problem, but that can backfire,” Linda says. “Your facility most likely has an established chain of command. There may even be a person whose sole responsibility is to hear and resolve residents’ concerns. You will often get better results if you go that route first.”
Know When to Punt
If you’re unable to reach a satisfactory resolution through the facility’s internal channels, you may need to involve outsiders. Your county’s Area Agency on Aging and the long-term care ombudsman serving your area will be good resources if you end up going that route.
Expensive care doesn’t automatically lead to great care, but if you know how to be an advocate, you can make sure your loved one gets the best care possible. Contact a Life Care Planning Law Firm near you for help.