Increase in nursing home closures across U.S.

Choosing nursing home care can be a big, emotional decision. Long-term care is a sizable investment, and many people struggle with entrusting their loved one’s care to someone else. Now some families are dealing with an additional hurdle, as nursing home closures are forcing some seniors to relocate, widening the distance families must travel to visit.

In what is described as an “epidemic,” rural nursing homes across the U.S. are closing. With staff shortages and low Medicaid reimbursement rates, these long-term care facilities can no longer afford to stay in business.

Approximately 63 percent of nursing home patients have their care funded by Medicaid, according to the American Health Care Association. But with reimbursement rates often below the actual cost of care, these facilities can no longer manage operating costs. In some states, Medicaid programs underfund patients anywhere from $30 to $40 per day.

For nursing home residents, the stress of moving is considerable. These facilities may lack the resources to orchestrate a successful closing, meaning residents might not get help to find a suitable home, belongings may be lost in the move and transfer of vital medical records can be delayed.

The stress associated with moving is so real that the industry has a name for it: “transfer trauma.” Common outcomes include depression, agitation, falls, weight loss and new deficits in self-care.

Even after making it through relocations, many elders find themselves long distances away from their families. That means fewer visits, greater isolation and increased risk for abuse.

If your loved one is subject to a nursing home closure, be sure you know their rights. The National Consumer Voice, a nonprofit offering ombudsman support for long-term care, provides information on its website (theconsumervoice.org). The site also has a Nursing Home Closures Kit that can help you understand if the closure is being conducted appropriately.

Keep in mind that nursing homes with a higher percentage of private-pay patients are at lower risk of closure. Paying for nursing home care is expensive, but long-term care insurance can help cover those costs. Seniors with the ability to self-pay will have more options for care, making them less susceptible to nursing home closure.

Consider purchasing insurance for yourself and your loved ones. If your parents will not be able to self-pay for their own long-term care, and you want to ensure they have options, long-term care insurance can be a way to protect your own time and resources, while simultaneously caring for your parents.

Keep tabs on nursing home trends in your area and talk with an estate planner to evaluate whether long-term care insurance would make sense for you or someone you care about.

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