When Should I or a Loved One Consider a Nursing Home?

Whether you and your family are facing a quick decision about a nursing home due to a recent event, or have been coping with a worsening progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, considering a nursing home is not an easy decision. Emotions such as guilt, sadness, frustration and anger are normal. Working through the possibilities of housing, finances,and medical needscan help you and your family make an informed decision.

Here are some questions to ask when considering a nursing home:

  • Has the senior been assessed recently? If a nursing home is being considered as the next step from a hospitalization, this probably has already been done. However, if a senior is considering a move from home or another facility, a more formal assessment by a medical team can help clarify the senior’s needs and see if other housing options may be a possibility.
  • Can the senior’s needs be met safely in other housing situations? The risk of falls may be too great, or the senior’s medical needs may no longer be able to be met at home or in another facility. If the senior needs 24-hour supervision, or is in danger of wandering off or forgetting about a hot stove, for example, a skilled nursing facility may be the best option. If the senior’s needs are solely custodial, though, an assisted living facility may be a better fit.
  • Can the primary caregiver meet the senior’s needs? Caregivers are often juggling the needs of work, other family, and their own health. It’s not possible for one person to be awake and responsive 24 hours a day. Sometimes other family members can help fill in the gap. Day programs, home care services, and respite care, where a senior temporarily stays in a nursing home, may also provide the support a caregiver needs. However, there may come a point where medical needs become too great and home care services are unable to bridge the gap or become too expensive.
  • Would the need for a nursing home be temporary or permanent? Sometimes, a temporary situation may be covered through home care, or family members might be able to rotate care on a short-term basis. However, if the level of care is expected to be permanent, this may be too expensive or coverage might not be enough.

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