How to Choose: Skilled Nursing Home vs At-Home Recovery for My Parent

Author: Maine Veterans' Homes
Posted: January 10, 2017
Category: Short Term Skilled Nursing Care

After a lengthy illness or surgery, your parent will need some level of recovery care and/or rehabilitation. For many, the debate begins on whether recovery should occur in a nursing home or at home.

The decision is difficult and varies from situation to situation based on the nursing care and rehabilitation needed, such as for a hip replacement vs. a broken arm or for pneumonia vs. the stomach flu. The overall health of your parent prior to hospitalization is also a factor. A man with dementia will have different recovery needs than a man with a heart condition.

The most important factor in determining where your parent will recuperate is finding the right place and kind of care for his or her individual needs. The right post-acute care can be the difference between a successful, speedy recovery or an unfortunate trip back to the hospital.

Ensure your parent has a smooth transition from hospital to recovery care by being prepared ahead of his hospital stay, if possible. Begin evaluating skilled nursing care vs. at-home care as soon as possible. Speak with his doctor about the option of post-acute rehab and get his recommendations.

Nursing Home vs. At-Home Care for My Dad

To help you make the decision on whether a skilled nursing facility or at-home care is the best place for your parent’s recovery, know what to expect after he leaves the hospital. Ask the hospital discharge planners, doctor or your primary care physician these questions:

  • What therapies will be required?
  • Will he need help with dressing or bathing?
  • What medical equipment will be needed, such as a walker or oxygen tank, and what kind of support is provided for equipment usage?
  • Will someone need to be with him 24 hours a day?
  • What is the average length of recovery time?
  • What problems, symptoms and side effects should we watch for?
  • What should we do about any potential side effects or problems?
  • What does each medicine do and why is it needed?
  • What are the medication dosages, conflicts and side effects


15 Questions to Help You Find the Perfect Nursing Home for Post-Acute Recovery

After determining costs and insurance coverage, the best way to narrow down your skilled nursing options is to take a tour. Meet the staff, review a potential plan for your parent’s recovery and evaluate the nursing home for care and recovery using these questions:

  1. What are your staffing levels? Do you provide 24-hour RN coverage?
  2. Can your nursing staff handle advanced care needs such as wound therapy?
  3. Will my parent have an individualized plan of care and how will I be involved?
  4. Who and how will they communicate with my family on my parent’s care?
  5. What kind of activities and social opportunities will my parent be able to take part in?
  6. How is the food? Can I see a menu or sample a meal?
  7. How often will therapy be provided? Is is every day or just 5 days per week? When will therapy start?
  8. Does the therapy team have advanced techniques? What is the quality of the therapy center?
  9. Will the therapists help educate my family on therapy techniques prior to my parent’s discharge?
  10. How do you assist with the transition back home?
  11. Evaluate the morale throughout the building. Is it high? Are staff enjoying their jobs?
  12. Are the rooms clean and free of clutter? Are the hallways clean and free of clutter?
  13. Are the rooms decorated and comforting? Do they feel sterile or hospital like?
  14. Does the staff address the residents respectfully?
  15. Are there areas for the family to gather for visits or special occasions?


15 Considerations Before Choosing At-Home Care

Choosing to care for your parent after an illness or surgery is a decision that takes careful consideration to ensure the move is in the best interest of your parent, you and your family. An at-home recovery can provide many positives, but realize it may not be right for everyone.

Ask yourself these questions to help weigh whether it’s the right move for you.

  1. Do you have the skillset to provide the required care, from changing bandages to bathing? Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. If you are not comfortable helping your father go to the bathroom, maybe you can be more assistance with insurance and paperwork.
  2. Do you have the time to be a caregiver? Consider your schedule, both at work and at home.
  3. Know your limits physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s OK to say, “I have too much going on in my life right now.” The quality of care you provide will be affected by how you are feeling and any other stressors you may be dealing
  4. Are you feeling guilty for considering skilled nursing care? Some children choose at-home care out of guilt. You may feel guilty for not being able to provide care when your parent nurtured you for so many years. Guilt is the wrong reason to choose at-home care. The right decision is based on how and where your parent can get the best care to achieve optimal recovery.
  5. What obligations do you have to your own family? Will those obligations be put on hold?
  6. How will this affect the entire family? Have you asked your spouse and children how they feel about at-home care for your parent?
  7. How will this affect your household financially? When you add up all the costs, such as purchasing equipment for your home and cutting hours at your job, you may find at-home care is more expensive than a rehab center.
  8. Consider the relationship you have with your parent. Caring for someone who is not feeling well or in recovery can add stress to any relationship. Is your relationship in a state to handle this?
  9. Can your home or your parent’s home safely meet your parent’s needs? Are there stairs? Are bathrooms wide enough for a walker or wheelchair? Can he easily get out of bed? Will he have privacy, yet be able to easily call for assistance?
  10. Do you have a plan in place if an emergency occurs?
  11. How will you provide any needed therapy?
  12. Can you transport your parent to therapy and doctor’s appointments?
  13. How will you provide opportunities for socialization and activities that stimulate the mind and aid in recovery?
  14. If your parent needs emotional or mental health support during recovery, can you handle this or do you have resources? Do you know how to handle traumatic flashbacks or burst of anger that could be possible due to medications or discomfort during recovery?
  15. Will you have time to care for yourself? Caregivers are more prone to illness due to stress and exhaustion. How will you give yourself a break? Who will cover for you when you need to replenish your body and mind?


At Maine Veterans Homes, our team of healthcare professionals work with your family to develop a customized treatment plan to help your parent recover fully and regain independence. We also provide comprehensive discharge planning, which may include home assessments, equipment recommendation and family training and education.

Whether your loved one is in need of rehabilitative care, therapy services, long-term care or dementia care, we work with you to provide the exceptional care, compassion and support you are looking for. Contact us online today or give us a call at 1-800-278-9494 to find out more.

Maine Veterans’ Homes is an independent nonprofit organization serving Maine’s veterans and families.