Nursing Home Myth-buster

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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No one wants to live in a nursing home. They serve as institutions of last resort when it’s impossible to provide the necessary care in any other setting. If you have never researched nursing home care before, and most of us have not, it is a little overwhelming and you might have some preconceived notions that are not based on fact. In order to arm you with accurate information before you start your search, let’s dispel some of the myths*.

Myth: Medicaid does not pay for all the nursing home services you want.
Fact: Residents with Medicaid coverage are entitled to the same nursing home services as other residents.

Myth: Restraints are required to prevent the resident from wandering away.
Fact: Restraints cannot be used for the nursing home’s convenience or as a form of discipline.

Myth: Staff cannot accommodate individual schedules.
Fact: A nursing home must make reasonable adjustments to honor residents’ needs and preferences.

Myth: Only staff can determine the care you receive.
Fact: Residents and family have the right to participate in developing a care plan.

Myth: Family visiting hours are restricted.
Fact: Family members can visit at any time of day or night.

Myth: You need to hire private help for special needs.
Fact: A nursing home must provide all necessary care.

Myth: You must pay any amount set by the nursing home for extra charges.
Fact: A nursing home may only require extra charges as authorized in the admission agreement.

Myth: The resident can be evicted because he or she is difficult or is refusing medical treatment.
Fact: No. The only legitimate reasons for eviction are: failure to pay, nursing home care is no longer required, the facility is going out of business, the resident’s needs can no longer be met in the facility, the resident’s presence is endangering others’safety, and the resident’s presence is endangering others’ health.

Myth: The nursing home has no available space for residents or family members to meet.
Fact: A nursing home must provide a private space for resident or family councils.

Myth: There is nothing to do in a nursing home except sit.
Fact: A good nursing home provides a vibrant social environment with numerous activities, including outings for those who are physically capable.

Myt h: A nursing home is just like a hospital.
Fact: A nursing home is very different from a hospital. The goals of a nursing home are to rehabilitate the resident to maximum potential and enable him or her to return to independent living arrangements if possible; maintain that maximum rehabilitation as long as possible within the realities of age and disease; delay deterioration in physical and emotional well-being; and support the resident and family, physically and emotionally, when health declines to the point of death.

Myth: There is no privacy in a nursing home.
Fact: Because so many nursing home residents need constant supervision, nursing homes are designed so that staff can be aware of residents’ whereabouts at all times. However, each resident has the right to privacy. Staff, family members, and visitors are encouraged to observe the common courtesy of knocking before entering a resident’s room. The staff is trained to respect the individual resident’s modesty and prevent unnecessary exposure when providing personal care.

Myth: Nursing home residents lose all of their rights.
Fact: Nursing facility residents maintain all of their constitutional rights, including the right to vote. Residents have the right to voice complaints and concerns about the facility, the right to have a voice in the care that they are given, and the right to receive visitors as well as freedom of choice.

Myth: Medicare will cover my nursing home bill.
Fact: Medicare pays for only a small amount of the nursing home care provided in the United States. In general, Medicare covers the full cost of the first 20 days in a skilled nursing facility if the individual is admitted following at least a 3-day hospital stay and is receiving skilled care as opposed to custodial care. Medicare will cover a portion of the cost of the facility for up to 80 more days. When the Medicare coverage ceases, the patient must pay out-of-pocket unless he or she has private long-term care insurance or qualifies for government benefits under the Medicaid program.

Myth: A resident may be evicted for refusing medical treatment.
Fact: A nursing facility resident, like any other individual, has a right to refuse medical treatment. Accordingly, an involuntary transfer or discharge cannot be based on a resident’s refusal of treatment.

*Adapted, in part, from E. Carlson, Twenty Common Nursing Home Problems and the Laws to Resolve Them, Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, January/February 2006 39(9–10):519–33

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