How to Select a Nursing Home in a Crisis

nursing homeWhat do you do when your parents are in sudden need of a dramatic increase in care?

For Massachusetts attorney Peter Kronberg, that became an immediate issue when his 82-year-old father had a stroke and could no longer care for himself and his wife, who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The octogenarian couple needed 24-hour care, but they had not placed their names on waiting lists for any senior living facilities.

At that point, Kronberg was faced with the seemingly impossible task of getting his parents into a nursing home in one week. He and his sister, Miriam, a business professional, wrote When Aging in Place Becomes Impossible based on that experience.

“We made so many mistakes that we decided to write the book so others wouldn’t have to learn how to do this from scratch,” he says.

Here, Kronberg offers practical tips on finding a good senior living arrangement on short notice.

No Vacancies

Ideally, people will spend months researching senior housing options, but Kronberg and his siblings didn’t have that luxury. So they started by considering facilities where their parents’ friends lived, as well as the highest-ranked facilities based on state nursing home inspections. Unfortunately, all of those nursing homes were booked solid.

We agonized when we couldn’t get our folks into the same facilities their friends had signed up for five years earlier,” says Kronberg. “We wasted tons of time trying to pull strings to get into facilities that had no room.”

Instead of taking that approach, he recommends quickly dismissing senior living facilities that have no beds available and opening yourself up to other possibilities.

Site Visits

Once you ascertain that there is room in a particular nursing home or assisted living facility, Kronberg says that site visits are essential to making the best decision for your parents.

During these visits, Kronberg found that speaking with nursing home administrators and marketing personnel did not provide a complete picture of the facility. Rather, he discovered that the most reliable information came from nursing aides, who are typically not involved in the sales pitch to potential residents.

“We found that the single most valuable persons to speak with are the aides,” he says. “They provide the core of the care our elders receive, and if they seem relatively happy and committed, it is a great sign. We made our final choice based on these conversations.”

Hiring a Care Advocate

Because Kronberg and his siblings did not live near their parents, they hired a care advocate to monitor their parents’ care.

“I think our care advocate was responsible for our father’s rebound (he had stroke-related dementia); she had the ability to stimulate him and work around his depression,” says Kronberg. “As his kids, we were never able to make him accept our help.”

In addition, the care advocate was able to supplement the enrichment provided by the nursing home, and to help move Kronberg’s parents off the Alzheimer’s floor.

The Cost of Assisted Living

Of course, long-term care doesn’t come cheap. Kronberg reports that, as of 2015, the cost of care for two adults in the Midwest was $7,000 per month.

Keeping cost in mind, he recommends choosing a facility that accepts Medicaid so your parents won’t have to move out once their money runs out.

“We were fortunate to have their house to sell and some insurance they bought to help us make the end of their lives better,” he says. “We, and many others like us, will have no inheritance other than the knowledge of having done right by our parents.”

After the Move

If your parents never planned to leave their home, they may resent a move to long-term care – even if it’s in their best interests. Kronberg and his siblings felt the weight of their parents’ unhappiness for a while, but the anger eventually gave way to gratitude.

“The best praise I received from my mother was her thanks for placing her in the home where she was safe,” he shares. “She had given me hell, called the home a jail, wept, glared, and refused to eat, but in a rare moment of lucidity she gave me that gift about a year before she died.”

“My father continues to thank us for making sure he is safe, fed, and clean,” Kronberg continues. “He is also continually grateful that our mother was kept clean and safe to the end.”

The Benefit of Hindsight

Obviously, advance planning for long-term care is preferable, but life doesn’t always work out the way we intend.

Looking back, Kronberg says he would do things differently – before the situation became a crisis.

“I would have insisted that my parents book space at a place they had chosen,” he says. “I would also have urged in-home assistance to keep them in their home longer.”

CHIME IN: What steps are you taking to prepare for, or prevent, a senior care crisis?

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15 comments on “How to Select a Nursing Home in a Crisis
  1. Excellent information shared for select a right nursing home, Thanks for sharing useful information.

  2. I agree with you that site visits are essential. Online profiles can often be deceiving. I’ve visited several facilities now with my parents. We’ve narrowed it down to their favorite few. The best ones had a great online presence and didn’t disappoint when we went there.

  3. I appreciate your comment on how planning in advance for assisted living care is preferable. I would imagine that talking openly with your parents or other loved ones about assisted living would be a helpful way to ease them into a situation. My mother is beginning to get up there in age, maybe I should start talking with her now about the possibility of moving into a nursing home.

  4. My mother fell down her stairs last night while we were over visiting her. You mentioned that once you ascertain that there is a room in a particular nursing home or assisted living facility, Kronberg says that site visits are essential to making the best decision for your parent. Do most facilities offer guided tours for prospective patients? Finding a reputable nursing home might be our best option.

    • Josh Culpepper says:

      Hello Derek,

      Yes, most senior care communities offer site visits and tours to determine if the community meets your particular needs. For more information on communities in your area or to set up a tour, please contact a Senior Living Advisor at (866) 873-0030. Thank you!

  5. Jade Brunet says:

    I appreciate this article about how to select a nursing home in a crisis. It is good to know that selecting a nursing home that accepts Medicaid is beneficial so that residents do not have to move out once their money runs out. It would also be great to find a facility that makes sanitation a priority. It would not be good for your loved one to catch an unwanted cold due to lack of cleanliness.

  6. Annika Larson says:

    My mother is suffering from dementia, and we are looking at finding her an assisted living facility. As you said, it’s important to keep cost in mind while looking for quality care. Hopefully, we as a family will be able to help her in this transition. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow, this is great information for people who aren’t ready for home health and assisted living facilities but things happen so quickly. This is absolutely great for the family who isn’t ready yet during the crisis that happens in our lives. Finding the right facility it huge but also understanding the cost of the facilities and whether their insurance will pay for it! It is great when everyone has plenty of time to find the perfect facility and have the abilities to get references from families whose had a member at the facilities but many times people put that on hold thinking it won’t be happening for many years and then it happens.

  8. Ivy Baker says:

    I liked that you pointed out that you should consider talking to people when visiting nursing homes. My grandmother is getting up there in age and she will need a nursing home. So, it does seem smart to talk to people who actually live there to tell if my grandmother will like ti there.

  9. Lauren Jones says:

    My great aunt suffers from dementia and cannot seem to get along on her own anymore. We are wondering if a nursing home would be a good option to help her. It is good to know that one should quickly dismiss senior living facilities that do not have beds available. I am glad to learn that once you have found there is a room in a particular nursing home or assisted living facility, it is wise to visit the site. It would be nice to get a feel of the premises. We will put this information to good use, thanks.

  10. Marcus Coons says:

    Thank you for talking about how ideally, people would spend months doing research when looking for the best nursing home. It makes sense that doing this can help you compare several locations and be able to choose the one that suits your needs best. Personally, I would want to read online reviews and check out ratings to make sure the nursing home I choose has a good reputation and is properly equipped to care for their residents.

  11. Max says:

    I’ve been thinking about looking for an assisted living facility for my grandmother, as it’s getting too difficult for us to provide all of the care she needs. I’m glad that you talked about keeping cost in mind for assisted living, and how you want to find a facility that accepts medicaid. I’m going to have to do some different looking around for a medicaid accepting assisted living facility, and see if we think that my grandmother would be better there!

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