As the Baby Boomers continue to inch closer to retirement age themselves, many are being forced to make tough long-term care decisions for their parents. Nursing homes are one of the options available. Most people have some preconceived ideas about living in nursing homes, but to make the right decision weighing both the pros and the cons is important.
Nursing homes are facilities that provide around the clock care to people who are unable to manage their daily activities safely. When most of us think of nursing homes, we think of elderly individuals who have limited mobility or who may be suffering from mental impairment, such as Alzheimer's. However, nursing homes can also be populated by younger people who have developmental or physical disabilities that require full-time care from a trained staff. The term "nursing home" is probably a reference to the law in the United States requiring at least one nurse to be on staff at all times.
History of Nursing Homes
It may be surprising but nursing homes as we know them have not been in existence for very long. Until the 1960s or so, most families had few choices about how to care for their aging loved ones. The well off senior citizens could afford live-in assistance or could pay the price for private nursing homes. Those without such means had only two options: care for their elderly family members in their own homes or send them to almshouses which were known for providing poor care and were stigmatized by society. In 1972, a federal law was passed that allowed Medicaid to pay for the costs of long-term care in nursing homes.Further laws were passed in the 1980s to ensure proper care for patients.
The Benefits of Nursing Homes
Nursing homes do have some clear advantages. With the hectic life of the average family in the United States, most people do not have the time necessary to provide full-time care for an elderly parent. Even Baby Boomers who are preparing for retirement often must continue working full-time jobs, help raise their grandchildren, and even share their homes with their adult children so they don't have the resources to care for someone who needs their full attention most of the time. Plus, many elderly people require medical attention and care that cannot adequately be provided by an untrained family member. Having a nursing staff on hand all the time to provide for these needs can be critical.
The Drawbacks of Nursing Homes
Unfortunately, not all nursing homes achieve the same standards of care nor do all of these facilities hire the highest quality staff. Reports and class action lawsuits related to neglect or physical abuse occurring in these facilities have been numerous in the last couple of decades, despite changes in the law meant to prevent such problems. Even in the best nursing homes, employees will occasionally steal from patients or will not provide for their needs appropriately. However, being actively involved in the care of the family member at the facility can reduce the likelihood of such problems arising.
Choosing the Right Nursing Home
Because bad nursing homes are out there, you should start searching for one of these facilities early on. Ask other people for recommendations. People who have had bad experiences with the way their parents or other family members were treated in nursing homes will be happy to share their tales. You can also schedule a visit so you can tour the facilities yourself. Try to strike up conversations with some of the residents so that you can get their opinion of the nursing home as well.
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