Many people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) want to live at home for as long as possible. However, there may be important reasons why long-term skilled nursing care would provide a more suitable living situation for the care partner and loved one with PD.
Although it is common to experience guilt and mixed feelings about transitioning a loved one to a skilled nursing facility, it can be the best option for the person with PD due to employment schedule, costs associated with in- home care, physical limitations or emotional health. Additionally, the household environment may not be the best option due to the layout of the home or the needs of other residents.
What is a Skilled Nursing Facility (Also Known as a Nursing Home)?
A skilled nursing facility is a healthcare center with at least one full-time registered nurse on- site and a doctor on call. It provides resident access to 24-hour care from nurses and certified nursing assistants. Skilled nursing facilities provides more care than assisted living facilities, which only help with day-to-day activities.
Rehabilitation vs. Long-Term Care
After a hospitalization, it is common to stay at a rehabilitation center within a skilled nursing facility to recover from surgery, injury or illness. Medicare can pay a portion of this stay under certain circumstances. During rehabilitation, physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), speech language pathology (SLP) and social work services are offered, and certified nursing assistants are available 24 hours a day. The individual either returns home or transitions to a care facility for long-term care when the rehabilitation services end.
Paying for Long-Term Care in A Skilled Nursing Facility
There are different options to pay for a skilled nursing facility stay. An individual can pay privately, use long term care insurance, use U.S. Department of Veterans benefits or qualify for Medicaid. It is important to note that Medicare does not pay for permanent stays in skilled nursing facilities.
Those who cannot pay out of pocket for a skilled nursing facility can utilize Medicaid. To review finances and payment options or learn how to qualify for Medicaid, consider meeting with an eldercare lawyer or a financial planner long before the transition takes place. To find an eldercare lawyer, visit NAELA.org.
If you cannot afford an elder law attorney or financial planner, it might be helpful to utilize other resources, including a social worker at Area Agency on Aging office for your area. To find the closest office to you, call 1-800-677-1116 or visit ElderCare.acl.gov.
The Benefits of Planning Ahead
Even if you do not expect a transition in the near future, it can be a good idea to visit facilities before a move is required. Starting early will allow you time to get to know the skilled nursing facilities in your area in case you need to make a quick decision. Keep in mind that your options may be dependent upon factors such as availability or finances.
Is a Skilled Nursing Facility Right for You or Your Loved One?
Long-term care in a skilled nursing facility provides 24-hour assistance with advanced care needs. Staff assists with daily living activities and medication management. They also provide opportunities for social interactions and participating in recreational and wellness programs. Meals are offered in a group dining setting and housekeeping and laundry services are also included.
Evaluating Long-term Care Skilled Nursing Facilities
You can find recommendations for skilled nursing facilities from local support groups or community organizations serving people with PD. You can also use the Medicare Nursing Home Compare tool at Medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare or the Nursing Home Inspect Guide at Projects.Propublica.org/Nursing-Homes.
Consider also reading online reviews of local facilities and visiting their website or social media pages. You can also call your local Area Agency on Aging for facility reviews at 1-800-667-1116 or visit ElderCare.acl.gov.
You can schedule a tour for skilled nursing facilities where you can gather information about their services, resources and costs. It is often helpful to take a family member, friend, or if financially feasible, an Aging Life Care Expert with you. You can find an Aging Life Care Expert in your area by calling 520-881-8008 or visiting AgingLifeCare.org.
Questions to Ask a Skilled Nursing Living Facility
Refer to the questions on the following pages for guidance. Try to make a second, unannounced visit in the evening or on a weekend. You may learn additional information that adds to your overall opinion of the facility. If you have specific questions about this process, contact our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).
For more insights on this topic, listen to our podcast episode “Best Practices & Guidance: Navigating Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities.”