Caring for the Aging: Shopping for Nursing Homes in Bakersfield
When most people hit retirement age, they’re thinking about things like leaving the daily grind of their career behind them, spending time with grandchildren, and traveling. Finding and affording a reputable nursing home or suitable long-term care is usually not the first thing on the agenda.
But the Administration for Community Living (ACL), a U.S. government agency “created around the fundamental principle that older adults . . . should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities,” reports that a 65-year-old in the U.S. has a 69% chance of needing long-term care at some point in their life.
The phrase long-term care covers everything from help at home from family members to round-the-clock care in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). ACL says that 35% of current 65-year-olds will need about a year of nursing home care during their lifetime. With the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimating the monthly cost of nursing home care in Bakersfield at $9,155–$10,432, it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
For many elderly, the decision to enter an assisted living facility or nursing home takes place over a long period of time, perhaps after years of chronic illness. But for many others, a sudden event like a stroke or a fall necessitates long-term care. If they’ve never considered long-term care, they may find themselves scrambling to find and pay for a decent facility.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says, “The best time to think about long-term care is before you need it. Planning for the possibility of long-term care gives you time to learn about services in your community and what they cost. It also allows you to make important decisions while you are still able.”
In this blog, we’ll cover types of long-term care, ways to pay for it, and how to choose a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Elder Abuse: A Genuine Concern
Elder abuse is no laughing matter; in fact, seeking justice for victims of elder abuse is part of our practice at Chain | Cohn | Clark. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 10% of adults over 60 who live on their own experience some form of abuse.
Elder abuse is the result of an abuser’s deliberate actions or failure to act and falls into four main categories:
- Physical abuse, including sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial abuse
If a caregiver hits an elderly person, that action constitutes physical abuse. If a caregiver is responsible for helping an older person eat and they don’t do so, their lack of action constitutes neglect. As we’ve written about in the Chain | Cohn | Clark blog, dehydration and malnutrition are a problem for many elders in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Although abuse is a significant problem in long-term care homes, there are reputable, caring facilities available. Let’s take a look at how to find the right Bakersfield nursing home for you or your loved one.
Looking for Long-Term Care Facilities
When you first start looking for long-term care facilities in Bakersfield and the surrounding area, you may end up befuddled by the terminology. But with this quick primer, you’ll be able to tell the difference between a nursing home, assisted living, and a continuing care retirement community and zero in on the kind of care you or your family member need. Over the course of their retirement years, an older adult may need just one or several of these types of care.
Help With the Activities of Daily Life
Some forms of elder care involve helping with daily activities, such as bathing, getting dressed, preparing meals, or cleaning. These include:
- In-home care: A caregiver visits an elderly person in their own residence to assist with daily tasks. This kind of care aims to allow an older adult to continue living independently; caregivers include both paid professionals and unpaid family members.
- Assisted living: An elderly person resides in a community of other elders and receives assistance according to their level of need. Assisted living facilities vary widely in terms of their accommodations and amenities. Assisted living facilities are not healthcare facilities and are not required to have doctors or nurses on staff.
- Adult day care: Instead of receiving assistance in their own home, an elderly person spends the day at a care center that provides meals, activities, and companionship.
Help With Ongoing Medical Needs
An elderly person may need ongoing medical care due to a chronic illness or after hospitalization for an acute illness. This kind of care can also take several forms:
- Home health care: A nurse or occupational therapist visits an elderly person in their own home to provide medical care or rehab services.
- Nursing homes (or skilled nursing facilities): As with an assisted living facility, an elderly person resides in a community of other elders. However, unlike assisted living facilities, nursing homes are considered health care facilities and do have doctors and nurses on staff. They provide round-the-clock medical care. Some patients stay in nursing homes temporarily to transition from hospital care to their own homes; others remain in nursing homes long term, receiving care for chronic conditions. Generally, a nursing home is the most expensive type of long-term care.
Other Types of Long-Term Care
Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) typically require new residents to pay a substantial amount of money to buy into their community. They usually offer several levels of care that residents can avail themselves of as needed, including independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities.
Some nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer specialized memory care for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. If your loved one has one of these conditions, be sure to make memory care a part of your facility search.
Hospice care aims to make terminally ill patients as comfortable as possible as they live out their final days.
Paying for a Nursing Home in Kern County
Long-term care is a significant expense for most people. Costs also vary widely from location to location and even from facility to facility within the same area.
In other words, shopping for a nursing home in California may be very different from shopping for a similar facility in another state. Costs also vary within California itself. For example, AARP’s estimate for nursing home costs in San Francisco is over $14,000 per month for a private room—much higher than the estimated $10,432 in Bakersfield.
So, when researching long-term care costs, be sure you’re looking at nursing home costs for Bakersfield or Kern County.
Typically, nursing homes cost more than any other type of long-term care. Consequently, you may want to consider using other types of care for as long as possible before opting for a nursing home.
If you’ve determined that you or your family member need to be in a nursing home, there are multiple ways to pay, including:
- Medicare: The federal insurance program for adults aged 65+ pays for up to 20 days in a skilled nursing facility; from 21–100 days, the patient pays $200 per day in coinsurance; and beyond 100 days, the patient pays the full cost of care.
- Medicaid: Individuals who meet certain income and asset qualifications may be eligible for Medicaid assistance for paying for a skilled nursing facility. Assistance with skilled nursing care in Bakersfield is facilitated by Medi-Cal. For some people, Medicaid is not initially an option; however, it may become an option after they have used up more of their personal resources.
- Veterans benefits: The Veterans Administration (VA) provides help with assisted living and nursing home costs to qualified veterans in Kern County.
- Long-term care insurance: This works a lot like homeowner’s or car insurance; you pay monthly premiums in exchange for coverage that pays for long-term care when you need it. However, if you are already in need of nursing home care, it may be too late to purchase long-term care insurance.
- Personal assets: Retirement savings or your home (through a sale or a reverse mortgage) can also be used to pay for long-term care out of pocket. It’s a good idea to exhaust other ways of paying for nursing home care before dipping into your retirement funds.
What to Look For in a Nursing Home
Once you’ve determined what kind of facility you need and considered how to pay for long-term care, it’s time to shop around for the best care you can afford.
Screen Nursing Homes Online
There are several websites you can use to screen potential nursing homes online. This may save you the trouble of visiting an SNF with a history of abuse allegations or serious health code violations.
Care Compare, a site provided by Medicare, rates facilities out of five stars based on three criteria:
- Health inspections: Facilities receive lower ratings if they are cited in annual or complaint-based health inspections.
- Staffing: Facilities are ranked based on whether they have enough qualified staff in each role (registered nurse, physical therapist, etc.) and other staff-related factors.
- Quality measures: Facilities are ranked based on how well they meet certain health-care-related performance criteria.
It’s a good idea to dig into a facility’s rating. Some nursing homes may have lower ratings because of relatively minor health inspection citations but have good ratings for staffing and quality measures.
Adequate staffing is a crucial consideration because understaffed nursing homes will have a harder time responding to patient calls and providing attentive care. In addition, overworked staff may be more likely to lash out at residents.
ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news site, created a tool called Nursing Home Inspect that allows users to search nursing homes by location (e.g., Kern County) or facility name to see what health code violations they’ve been cited for and any fines they’ve paid in the last three years. Using Nursing Home Inspect, you can see the severity of a facility’s health code violations, which are ranked by letter from A–L, with A being less severe and L being the most severe.
U.S. News & World Report—which is known for its rankings of universities, among other things—provides an overview and ranks nursing homes. Their rankings are searchable by location (e.g., Bakersfield, CA) or facility name.
Visit the Nursing Homes That Pass Your Screening
If a nursing home looks good in terms of its ratings, schedule a visit. You can even consider visiting a home more than once on different days of the week and at different times to meet more of the staff.
Before you visit, learn to recognize the signs of elder abuse so you can watch out for any red flags on your tour. Below are a few things to pay attention to as you visit a facility:
- Observe the residents. If you can, stop and talk to a few. Do they seem happy and well-groomed?
- Observe the staff. Are they courteous and professional in their interactions with you and the residents?
- Observe the facility. Is it clean and well-maintained?
- Eat the food that’s served to residents. Does it meet your expectations?
- Ask about resident activities. Are activities interesting and well-attended?
This list gives you enough to get started on your search; Medicare.gov provides a detailed checklist of things to look for as you tour a nursing home.
Bakersfield Elder Abuse Attorneys
Choosing a nursing home or skilled nursing facility can be daunting; it’s even more troubling to face the possibility that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home. If you suspect your loved one is being mistreated in a long-term care facility, the experienced Bakersfield elder abuse lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help you take steps to hold the abuser and their employer accountable.
Contact us today to discuss your case in a free, no-obligation consultation.