Selecting the Right Assisted Living or Nursing Home – Where Do I Start?

September 19, 2016

Authored by: Lindsay Moss, J.D.lindsay@elvilleassociates.com, 443-393-7696

For many people caring for a loved one with disabilities, providing care in the home indefinitely is an unrealistic goal. As well-intentioned as most family caregivers are, the fact is that being a caregiver is extraordinarily hard.  Countless caregivers have come to Elville & Associates in crisis, burnt-out from the responsibilities of providing 24/7 care, not knowing where to turn. Acknowledging the extreme demands of being a caregiver and seeking help when at your wit’s end is OK! It is in the best interest of the disabled loved one to not be a burden, and to be cared for in an appropriate environment. This often means accepting the reality that the appropriate environment may be an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.

When a family caregiver has made the decision to start looking at placement options, they often don’t know where to start. Selecting the right place for one’s loved one to live can be an emotional roller coaster. And, added to the stress of having to place a loved one in a facility is the overwhelming number of options to decide between; a quick Google search on local facilities will shoot back over 20 million results.  However, there are many steps a caregiver can take to make the selection process more bearable. Understanding the difference between assisted living and skilled nursing is an excellent place to start.

Assisted living is often more desirable because of, among many things, the living spaces and the recreational activities offered. Assisted living facilities (ALFs) offer assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing and bathing. They also offer medication management and administration. Larger assisted living facilities can offer extensive ADL assistance, and often have separate memory care units geared towards individuals with moderate to severe dementia. Costs for ALFs can range from about $3,000 per month for smaller, independent facilities (5-12 individuals) to upwards of $10,000 per month for large, chain-type facilities (50-200 individuals). Generally, the bigger the facility, the more amenities available. The cost of assisted living is primarily paid out-of-pocket; however, long-term care insurance policies will pay benefits towards assisted living costs, and Veterans and their spouses may be eligible for Aid & Attendance pension benefits through the Veterans Administration that may be used to help offset the same.

Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) are necessary for individuals who require a greater level of care  Rooms are generally semi-private, and recreational activities are available, but limited. Costs for SNFs can range from approximately $8,000 per month for smaller, independent facilities (50 individuals) to upwards of $15,000 per month for larger, chain-type facilities (100-200 individuals). Aside from the increased level of care offered in SNFs, the biggest difference between assisted living and skilled nursing is the source of payment. Once someone enters a SNF, depending on their financial situation, it may be time to start the process of applying and qualifying for Long-Term Care Medical Assistance (more commonly known as Medicaid). Once qualified, Long-Term Care Medical Assistance benefits will cover the costs of skilled nursing care that exceed the resident’s income.

After a determination has been made about assisted living versus skilled nursing, the next task is choosing a facility. Research is key, both online and in-person. Both Medicare and U.S. News and World Report publish yearly rankings of skilled nursing facilities throughout the country, both of which are extremely helpful in determining the appropriate placement for a loved one. It is always recommended to visit a facility unannounced, because one can get a better idea of how the ALF or SNF actually operates.There are organizations that can assist with the placement process. Many placement assistance organizations get a referral fee for assisting residents in the selection and placement process.

As one of the leaders in Maryland elder law, Elville and Associates helps clients with assisted living facility and skilled nursing facility placement. Our attorneys work with facilities throughout Maryland, and have a vast knowledge bank of experience. If you are contemplating the placement of your loved one outside the home, Elville and Associates is here to help you navigate the complicated and emotional process of selecting the facility that best fits your specific needs and budget, or that of your loved one.