Tools to find the best for your family

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Deciding that it’s time for a loved one to transition into a retirement home is a tough decision. Trying to figure out which facility is best suited to meet their health needs, financial resources, and safety concerns can seem daunting.

In Pennsylvania — and especially in the Philadelphia area — finding the perfect retirement home has become more difficult in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic has financially weakened the an overwhelmed long-term nursing industry where many facilities have closed, downsized or transitioned to specialist care.

It’s not all bad news: For the first time in nearly 25 years, Pennsylvania adopted new regulations for the nursing industry – which will impact the lives of more than 70,000 residents in nursing homes in the state.

From 2023:

  • Pennsylvania will require nursing homes to spend at least 70% of their budget on resident care. (A Applicant analysis of the 288 retirement homes in Pennsylvania found that more than half will need to increase their expenses.)

  • Potential nursing home buyers will face greater financial control and more thorough background checks before they are allowed to purchase a facility.

  • Care homes will be required to provide 2.87 hours of direct nursing care per resident per day (the mandate increases to 3.2 hours per day in 2024). Currently, it is 2.7 hours.

  • Rest homes will have to limit the number of residents assigned to each caregivers. Caregivers are not permitted to be called upon to care for more than 12 daytime and evening residents (this will increase to 10 daytime and 11 evening in 2024).

Moreover, the the long-term care industry will receive hundreds of millions of dollars over the next fiscal year in order to comply with these new regulations, in particular to meet staffing needs.

Although the industry is getting a much-needed boost, there are still some issues you need to be aware of – as well as helpful resources to help you along the way.

While some people may take their time searching for the right nursing home, others need to find care quickly. In these cases, their options may be more limited, depending on which facilities have openings and what type of insurance you have.

“The reason people may not have a choice is that there are a few things going on,” Cubit said. “Establishments are closing. There is a manpower crisis where a facility may have empty beds, but it does not have the staff. And you may have people receiving care with Medicare, or there are insurance considerations, which may further limit choices.

If you have time to shop around, consider proximity to your home, type of insurance accepted, and adequate staffing.

During a visit to a nursing home

You need to create a list of several facilities that you want to delve into and visit them all. When narrowing down your choices, try visiting nursing homes at different times of the day (make one planned and one unannounced).

During the visit:

  • Ask to speak to someone from the Residents and Family Councils of the nursing home.
  • Talk to direct care staff, such as nurses and nursing assistants.
  • Ask if you can try a sample of the meals they serve.
  • Ask if you can participate in the daily activities they organize at home.
  • Check if the nursing home accepts Medicare and/or Medicaid.

Ask yourself:

  • Do residents and staff seem happy?
  • What is the atmosphere of the retirement home?
  • How does the property smell?
  • Is the house welcoming or institutional?

Now that you have a better idea of ​​the industry, here are some resources you can use to help you in your search.

The Pennsylvania Area Agencies on Aging serve as a regional center of information and resources for seniors. You will be able to discover the options available for you or your loved one. In the Philly area, the Philadelphia Society for Aging (PCA) acts as the region’s agency, facilitating care referrals and anything else one may need. Call PCA at 215-765-9040 or visit pcacares.org.

This statewide advocacy organization not only helps people looking for retirement homes, but also operates the Philly area Mediator program – which is a workforce of volunteers who will directly advocate for nursing home residents on their behalf. Call the CARIE line at 215-545-5728 for assistance or visit their website at carie.org.

This Ministry of Health helpline can connect older people and people with disabilities to support and services in their community. They will also help determine eligibility for funding necessary care. Call 1-800-753-8827 for assistance or, if you prefer to view options online, visit humanservices.state.pa.us/IRT to find references.

This federal online tool helps you find local nursing providers, view ratings and facility information, and get resources to help you make a decision. Find providers on medicare.gov/care-compare. When you find a provider you’re interested in, you can see information such as the number of certified beds, whether they participate in Medicare and Medicaid, whether the facility has a residents’ or family council, and more.

This national non-profit organization, based in New York, monitors and publishes information on nursing homes across the country. On the LCCC website, you can find state-based resources. For Pennsylvania, they have reports on staffing, facility ratings, and nursing homes that you might want to avoid. Find more information about nursinghome411.org/states/pa.

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