Finding the Right Nursing Home in Metro Atlanta

Most families are shocked when they find out how difficult it can be to find a nursing home bed for their loved one in the Metro Atlanta area—much less a bed in the right nursing home.

The Metro Atlanta area has a shortage of long-term care beds in nursing homes. Georgia requires that a nursing home obtain a Certificate of Need from the state before any new nursing homes can be built. The intention of this is to make sure an oversupply of nursing home beds in an area doesn’t create an artificial need for those beds (and thus cost the state more money and incentive nursing homes to admit residents that are not appropriate for nursing home care).

So, what is a long-term care bed, and why is there a shortage? Generally, individuals are admitted to a nursing home in one of two ways. The first, and most common way, is by being admitted to a nursing home following a 3-night stay in a hospital whereupon the doctor feels that the patient needs sub-acute rehabilitation services in order to maintain or improve functioning. This is known as being in sub-acute rehab or short-term rehab. Medicare Part A pays for certain rehabilitation services for a short period of time. Admission to a nursing home is generally arranged by the social worker or discharge planner at the hospital in consultation with the patient and family.

The second way that individuals enter a nursing home is from home or an assisted living facility. This means that the individual is seeking a long-term care bed, not a sub-acute rehab bed. Finding a nursing home that will accept an individual for long-term care (and not for sub-acute rehab) can be difficult. The reimbursement rates for long-term residents is much lower than for short-term rehab residents, and nursing homes have expenses to meet and owners/shareholders to report to. Thus, nursing homes try to limit their number of long-term care beds, and finding a bed takes time and persistence. Families often have to accept their third, fourth of fifth ranked nursing home in order to find a nursing home that will offer their loved one a long-term care bed.

So, how do you begin the process of finding a nursing home bed? You should begin by identifying the nursing homes in your area and then making a plan to visit them. Listings of facilities in the Metropolitan Atlanta Area can be obtained from:

Hurley Elder Care Law’s Nursing Home Guide
Email us at info@hurleyeclaw.com to request your free guide be mailed to you

Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare
www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/

Georgia Healthcare Facility Regulator
http://dch.georgia.gov/healthcare-facility-regulation-0

Atlanta’s AgeWise Connection
http://www.agewiseconnection.com/

Once you have created your list, you can contact the local or state ombudsman for information about the nursing home and then request a copy of the facility’s state inspection report from the nursing home, the healthcare facility regulator or the ombudsman.

Medicare offers information for nursing homes participating in Medicare. This is called “Nursing Home Compare” and can be found at www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/. Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare includes a five-star rating system for each facility. This rating system is based upon health inspections, staffing and quality measures. The Medicare Nursing Home Compare should be one of the many tools you use when selecting a nursing home. Do not use the Medicare Nursing Home Compare as your only source of information about a facility; always visit the facility in person.

Plan to visit each community twice, once scheduled and then another time unscheduled. For the scheduled visit, contact the admissions director at each facility to set up a time to meet with them. For the second visit, just show up in the evening or on the weekend to see if there is a drastic difference in the atmosphere of the facility or the care being provided. It is important to tour at least two facilities so you can see the difference in the physical plan and the staff. When you are touring, pay attention to your gut feeling. Ask yourself the following questions: Did I feel welcome? How long did I have to wait to meet with someone? Did the staff member find out my family member’s wants and needs? Was the facility clean? Were there any strong odors? Was the staff friendly? Did they seem to generally care for the residents? Did the staff seem to get along with each other? Listen and observe. You can learn so much just by watching and paying attention. Ask any questions that come to mind. There are no “dumb” questions.

After visiting all of your options, select your top 5 nursing homes, and talk to their admissions director about getting a bed for your loved one and about the process for admissions—your loved one may be placed on a waiting list. The task of finding good quality long-term care can be difficult, but remember: Georgia offers more than just nursing homes for long-term care. In addition to nursing homes, we have personal care homes and assisted living communities. They all provide three meals a day, 24/7 over-sight by staff, and planned activities. It is important to consult with a professional to determine which level of care your loved one needs. You may be searching for a nursing home when you really need an assisted living community.

The team at Hurley Elder Care Law is dedicated to helping each of our families find the best long-term care (and also figuring out how to pay for it). If you have questions for us or would like a copy of our free Georgia Nursing Home Guide, please contact us at (404) 843-0121 or email us at info@hurleyeclaw.com.