Things to consider in a skilled nursing facility

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Not all skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are created equal. Some rooms are private and some are semi-private to offer services at a lower cost.

SNFs are very expensive to operate due to strict government guidelines and what is required to be in compliance. Nursing homes are evaluated by DHEC every year - and their inspections are not scheduled in advance so operators never know when they will be inspected.

Beaufort County has a handful of skilled nursing facilities that provide rehabilitation services for seniors - physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. - satisfying the needs of those patients who've gone through surgery.

And in most cases, Medicare or private insurance will cover most of the expense.

Skilled nursing also provides long-term care for those individuals whose overall health has declined to the point where they need 24/7 care.

SNFs provide three meals a day, an opportunity to participate in daily activities and most importantly, have immediate access to health professionals. Long-term care is private pay (Medicare not accepted), unless the facility is licensed to accept Medicaid, and can range from $200 per day for a semi-private room to more than $300 per day for a private room. In most cases, long-term health care insurance is accepted.

You'll need to have these questions answered before you decide. It's imperative you visit the facility - more than once or twice - so you can get a feel for the place and have a better understanding of how it operates.

What are the common areas like? Is there proper security and privacy? Is there a place to sit comfortably both inside and outside?

What do current residents or family members think of the community? See if you can talk with current residents or their family members to see what their experience has been like.

What is the food like? Some senior living communities have had low marks when it comes to the quality and variety of the food offered. You can get honest feedback from those who are living there.

What is the turnover of staff? This is a critical question in that good organizations have minimal staff turnover, i.e. work as a team. Talk with the administrator or director of nursing to see how long staff has been working.

What about the need to evacuate for a hurricane? Where are the patients evacuated to and how does it happen?

There will be difficult choices to make so you want to make sure you've done your homework. Invest the time, ask the hard questions and your decision will be the right one.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. www.TheSeabrook.com

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