Nursing Home Patient Advocate, Navigator or Health Advocate
What is a Nursing Home Patient Advocate?
The concept of patient advocacy in its current form was developed in 1950’s as the treatment of cancer patients grew more and more technically complicated, as a means to make the voice of the patient more readily heard. In today’s world of constantly evolving medical techniques, treatments, and services, the average individual cannot be expected to be thoroughly acquainted with any and all this material. So it becomes the function of the Nursing Home patient advocate to perform a variety of services to ease the burden of the patient, and their family, as they learn to deal with every aspect of their transition to a nursing home, as well as the patient’s day-to-day living environment.
What is a Nursing Home (Skilled Nursing Facility)?
A nursing home is normally the highest level of care for older adults outside of a hospital. Nursing homes provide what is called custodial care, including getting in and out of bed, and providing assistance with feeding, bathing and dressing. However, nursing homes differ from other senior housing facilities in that they also provide a high level of medical care. A licensed physician supervises each patient’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Skilled nursing care is available on site, usually 24 hours a day. Other medical professionals such as occupational or physical therapists are also available. This allows the delivery of medical procedures and therapies on site that would not be possible in other housing.
The label “nursing home” has negative connotations for many people. Yet nursing homes provide an important component of senior housing options. It's important to separate nursing home myth from fact.
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 needs can 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.
Nursing Home Costs
Although the average cost is more than $50,000 a year and climbing, it can vary widely depending on where you live. Employee health insurance does not pay for nursing home care. The monthly range is $4000 and $8000 per month, and about a third of nursing home residents pay all of their nursing home costs from their own funds. Extended nursing home care can eat up your or your loved one's savings quickly—many people exhaust their finances after just six months. A fraction of them—about 5 percent—buys long-term care insurance, which covers the cost of a nursing home or other extended care. Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older persons and some younger ones with disabilities, pays for short-term nursing home stays.