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The decision to admit a loved one into a nursing home is never easy, as nursing home admission can be both a challenging and emotional process for families. Not knowing where to start can make the process even more difficult. Families know that choosing the right nursing home can significantly impact the well-being and quality of life of a loved one. And that’s why they must set aside time to research and compare nursing homes

This guide will walk families of seniors through the factors to consider when selecting a nursing home are the facility’s location, staff qualifications, and overall quality of care. It will also provide information relevant to nurses and long-term care facilities looking to optimize their nursing home admission processes. 

There are six core steps that families should always take during any nursing home admission process: 

1. Determining the need for nursing home care

If your loved one has a chronic illness or disability that requires constant care, you may have no better option than a nursing home in which nurses and physicians are on standby, ready to provide their medical expertise when needed. Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) may offer these seniors the care they need to live their best lives independently while aging. Similarly, those who can no longer live independently and safely and require assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating usually require long-term care as well. 

It is also important to consider the availability of family and other support systems. Some seniors don’t have adult children who can readily care for them in their homes 24/7. But even if an adult child is available, their physical and emotional well-being should be taken into consideration as well. Caregiving can take a toll on one’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being. In such cases, it may be time for the adult child to consider long-term care options for their aging parent.

2. Gather the necessary paperwork

This can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Still, it is an essential step to ensure that the admission process goes smoothly. Some of the paperwork one will need to gather includes the following:

A nurse checking-up on a resident who has gone through the nursing home admission process.
Gathering the necessary paperwork can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but it is an essential admissions step.
  • A state-required form certifying that the person meets nursing home criteria, typically filled out by the hospital or primary care physician
  • A physician’s order from the primary physician or attending doctor confirming the need for long-term skilled care
  • Physician’s orders for treatment, occupational therapies, and rehabilitation.
  • A detailed list of medications, dosages, and prescriptions
  • Medical history and recent physical results for attending physicians and nurses to have the most current medical information
  • Contact information for health care providers, family members, and emergency contacts
  • Information about the senior’s daily routine and activities
  • A negative tuberculosis test or chest X-ray results to ensure the person does not have or carry the disease
  • Personal information and consent forms to be filled out by a staff member, including the person’s social security number and signature
  • Financial paperwork and insurance documentation, including consulting with an attorney on managing income, assets, and property
  • Medical power of attorney paperwork granting a family member the authority to make arrangements for moving into a nursing home or long-term care community
  • Advance directives, such as a living will or power of attorney

Because the admission process may take some time, it is best to get the paperwork in order as soon as possible and make copies of all documentation while keeping it safe.

3. Start the nursing home admission process 

The next step is to complete the nursing home application itself. This application will be reviewed by the facility’s admission and nursing staff, who will use the information provided to determine whether or not the nursing home is the right fit for your loved one.

The application will typically include information about the senior’s: 

  • Medical condition
  • Medications
  • Previous hospitalizations
  • Daily routine, activities, and personal preferences (e.g., food, music, hobbies)

It’s important to be honest and thorough when completing the application, as the facility’s staff will use the information to create a tailored care plan for a loved one’s needs. Providing accurate information will ensure that the elder receives the best possible care customized to their unique needs. It should be remembered that some nursing homes will have a waiting list. Applying to multiple nursing homes is a good way to increase the chances of getting a spot in a facility that is the right fit for a loved one.

4. Apply for Medicaid (if applicable)

For many American families, long-term care can be a financial burden, with many unable to cover the costs out of pocket. That’s where Medicaid comes in. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that contributes toward long-term care costs for those who meet the income and asset guidelines. If an elderly American meets the criteria, applying for Medicaid can greatly assist in paying for the cost of care.

However, applying for Medicaid can be complex and time-consuming, and it’s important to be aware of the deadlines and requirements for each state. It’s also important to note that Medicaid has strict income and asset limits. Hence one may need to seek advice from an elder law attorney or Medicaid Specialist to help with the application process.

When applying for Medicaid, one must provide financial information, such as income and asset statements, bank statements, and tax returns. This is so that CMS determines whether they fall within the income bracket that enables one to qualify for Medicaid. Not all nursing homes accept Medicaid. So make sure to check with the facility before applying to see if it does.

5. Meet with nursing home staff to finalize the admission agreement

The admission agreement is a legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of the senior’s stay in the nursing home. During the meeting, the nursing home staff will review the admission agreement with you and answer any questions you may have. It’s important to carefully review the agreement and to ask any questions you may have about the person’s care, the cost of care, and the facility’s policies and procedures.

The admission agreement will typically include the following information:

A nurse going through a nursing home admission checklist with a new resident
It’s important to carefully review the agreement and to ask any questions you may have about the person’s care, the cost of care, and the facility’s policies and procedures.
  • The resident’s rights and obligations
  • Services and amenities available
  • Cost of services provided to the resident
  • Whether or not the facility accepts Medicaid as a form of payment
  • How complaints can be filed by the resident or their family
  • A bed-hold policy for cases in which the resident is admitted to a hospital

One should always be aware that the admission agreement is a binding legal document. So it’s best to consult with an attorney before signing it, especially if there are any concerns or questions regarding the document.

6. Move-in

This is typically an emotional and difficult moment for families, but one must remember that the goal is to provide the best care and quality of life for a loved one. Before the move-in date, visit the nursing home with the soon-to-be resident to familiarize them with the facility and the staff. This can help ease their transition and make them feel more comfortable in their soon-to-be new home.

It’s also essential to bring the senior’s personal belongings, such as clothing, toiletries, and any items that will help to make their room feel like home. One can also bring any medical equipment or devices that the elderly parent may need—such as a wheelchair—but this should first be discussed with the facility staff. 

On the move-in day, be present to help the elder settle in. The nursing home staff will be able to assist with the move-in process and answer any questions one may have. After the senior has settled in, you should stay involved in their care and visit them regularly, as this is also vital to their well-being. Know that the nursing home staff is always available to address any concerns about a loved one’s care.

It is worth noting that throughout the above steps, the nursing home staff must ensure they make the best use of their senior care software. This is to avoid making costly errors during the admission process—such as admitting a resident who isn’t eligible for Medicaid and does not have long-term care insurance. This means they would first need to choose a nursing home software and then demo the long-term care software to ensure it is the right fit for them.

Nursing Home Admission Checklist Tools

In the previous section, we looked at six core steps of nursing home admission and how seniors and their families can best take each step. In this section, we will look at some of the nursing home admission checklist tools available online. These nursing home admission checklist tools include the following: 

The admissions director or nursing home admission director behind her desk. She is an important part of the admissions process.
Nursing staff in a nursing home can create financial checklists that include questions about Medicaid eligibility, supplemental insurance, and available assets like trusts.
  • Medicare Nursing Home Checklist: This downloadable tool is provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to help individuals and families evaluate nursing homes. This checklist covers essential areas, such as quality of care, staffing, and facility amenities. It can be used to compare different nursing homes to make an informed decision about where to receive care.
  • Medicare Care Compare Website: It is powered by CMS, and it enables individuals and families to compare and research nursing homes in the Medicare program. The website provides a wealth of information on nursing homes, including the quality of care, staffing, facility amenities, the results of health inspections, and the facility’s performance on specific quality measures, which can prove invaluable during nursing home admission.
  • AARP Nursing Home Checklist: Provided by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), this helps individuals and families evaluate nursing homes and make informed decisions about where to receive care. While it does not guarantee the facility’s quality of care, it can act as a guide in the decision-making process.
  • National Caregivers Library Nursing Home Checklist: This is an online resource provided by the National Caregivers Library. The checklist provides questions to assist seniors or their families in assessing a nursing home during a visit. It also offers valuable guidance on important factors, such as the administrator’s licensure, staff background checks, and staff knowledge about elder abuse. 
  • U.S. News and World Report Nursing Home Checklist: This final checklist includes a comprehensive list of questions covering various aspects, such as toileting, nutrition, and health inspections. Visitors to a nursing home may not need to ask all of the questions, but this checklist serves as a helpful reminder to ask the most crucial questions during the visit.

As for nursing staff in a nursing home, they, too, can create financial checklists that include questions about Medicaid eligibility, supplemental insurance, and available assets (such as trusts).

Contact us here if you would like to demo our nursing home admission software.

The Admissions Director: Nursing Home Roles and Responsibilities

Let’s now have a look at an admissions director. Nursing home admissions directors are responsible for managing the nursing home admission process of new residents to a nursing home or long-term care facility. They fully understand nursing home admission requirements and are charged with training, managing, and supervising staff involved in the admissions process. Other primary responsibilities include the following:

  • Managing inquiries to the facility
  • Maintaining information regarding bed availability and facility services
  • Sharing admission papers with families and seniors
  • Engaging in sales and marketing campaigns
  • Communicating the needs of new residents to ensure a smooth admission process

In the previous section, we discussed how a nursing home admission checklist could benefit seniors and their families. While an admission director will have a strong grasp of the nursing home requirements for admission, they can also use the checklists above to ensure that they are providing resident-centered care

The Cost of Nursing Home Admission and How to Plan Appropriately

The cost that one must consider before deciding upon nursing home admission can be a significant financial burden for many families. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home is around $9,034 per month, though this can vary greatly depending on the location and the level of care required. With this in mind, families must plan ahead and understand the costs associated with nursing home admission.

Medicaid and Medicare are government programs that can help cover the cost of nursing home admission for those who meet certain income and asset requirements. As previously mentioned, Medicaid is a needs-based program available to those with limited financial resources. Medicare, meanwhile, is a federal health insurance program available to those over the age of 65. It can help cover the cost of short-term stays in a nursing home, but it does not cover the cost of long-term stays.

Of course, long-term care insurance is another option to help cover the cost of nursing home admission. These policies can help cover the cost of nursing home care as well as other types of long-term care, such as in-home care and assisted living. However, it’s essential to remember that long-term care insurance can be expensive and may not be an option for everyone.

For more on recent trends in long-term care, read our blog and subscribe to the LTC Heroes podcast.

Elijah Oling Wanga