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What Happens When Your Nursing Home Closes?

A white-haired senior individual sitting on a hanging bench in a brightly-lit garden, with various trees and potted flowers in the background.The closing of a nursing home facility can be traumatic or challenging for residents. If you or a loved one is a resident of a retirement community or assisted living facility, you may wonder what happens if a nursing home gets shut down.

Nursing home administrators must notify the state and supply a closure plan before delivering written notice to residents and their guardians. The closing facility is obligated to provide the same quality of care and services until a suitable new home is found for its residents. However, in these unique circumstances, it is often left to you and your family to facilitate a move to another location that meets your needs and best interests.

Why Do Nursing Homes Close?

Even before COVID-19 began affecting senior populations, nursing homes were closing at a high rate for a variety of reasons. Some senior care facilities are in financial trouble, while others close after cases of abuse or negligence from the staff or visitors. Several reasons contribute to a nursing home closing for good, including:

Administrators and staff may go to great lengths to conceal deficiencies and problems from residents. Family members and guardians monitoring a senior’s care can identify signs a nursing home may soon be closing and make the necessary preparations with as much notice as possible.

These signs may include:

  • Diminished service quality or selections;
  • Communication failures;
  • Overworked, underpaid staff;
  • Financial mistakes or mismanagement;
  • Cases of abuse or neglect.

Legal Obligations of the Nursing Home Getting Shut Down

The legal obligations of a nursing home that shuts down largely depend on whether it is a voluntary or regulatory closing. If the facility is shutting down business on its own, they must give residents a 60-day written notice before closing. When nursing homes are closed, a 30-day notice is required. However, in either case, a nursing home may not close until after all of its residents have found new places to live.

The primary concern when a facility shuts down is the health of its residents. Swift legal action can be taken to force facilities to honor their obligations for the well-being of seniors under their care. Family members and legal guardians often turn to a senior’s healthcare advocate or an attorney specializing in nursing home cases for support and representation.

Negative Impacts on Residents From Nursing Home Closures

For many seniors, a nursing home is considered the final residence to live out the rest of their lives with care and comfort. Having to uproot and relocate is an event that affects each resident differently.

Common negative impacts a nursing home closing has on senior residents can include:

  • Depression;
  • Diminished self-care;
  • Disorientation, confusion;
  • Heightened risk of falling;
  • Increased stress;
  • Rapid weight loss.

Avoiding Relocation Stress Syndrome

Relocation stress syndrome is most often associated with a senior’s initial move from a private residence into a retirement community, assisted living facility, or nursing home. Residents often experience increased anxiety, loneliness, and confusion, hopelessness while adjusting to new surroundings and a new way of daily living.

The same potentially debilitating symptoms can occur when moving from one facility to another. Making frequent visits and properly preparing their new room helps avoid relocation stress syndrome when transferring a loved one into a new nursing home.

How to Find a New Nursing Home

A sudden move to a new nursing home can also be an opportunity for a fresh start and improved care. Using the experience to find the first nursing home helps you to avoid mistakes and pitfalls the second time.

Know what you are looking for: The unfortunate closing of a nursing home presents a unique chance to revisit your loved one’s care needs and service preferences. When making a list of prospective nursing homes to choose from, list the things the old nursing home did well and those items that were lacking to find the perfect balance in the new residence.

Call and visit multiple choices: Contact several different places that fit your needs and price range. Compare costs, services, waiting lists, capacity, and vacancy rates to narrow down the choices. Making visits to the final contenders at various parts of the day and night will give you a well-rounded feel of the staff and resident experience. Some things to look for when visiting a prospective nursing home include:

  • Medicare and Medicaid certifications;
  • Handicap accessibility;
  • Well-cared-for and happy residents;
  • Sincerity and warmth from staff, residents.

Read the contract carefully: Take the time to carefully read and understand every aspect of the contract before signing. Ask questions and have an objective party look it over to make sure nothing is missed. Request updated inspection reports to verify any claims made in the contract or certifications required by law.

Examine nursing home alternatives: Being forced to move out can present seniors the opportunity to examine alternatives to a traditional nursing home environment. From making home improvements to accommodate their unique needs to other forms of full-time care, seniors have a wide range of choices other than another nursing home.

Depending on the senior’s health, finances, and personal preferences, choices may include:

  • Home care;
  • Assisted living;
  • Adult foster care;
  • Adult daycare;
  • Respite care.

Tips for Moving to a New Nursing Home

The specific circumstances and dynamics of moving after a nursing home closes are different from moving from private life to residential care, but many of the same ways to ease the transition apply.

Be there: In some ways, it is more important for seniors to have the support of loved ones during a nursing home move than it was when they first moved out of their house. Just seeing a familiar, caring face of a loved one will help the senior feel more comfortable and at ease.

Let them be heard: It is often tempting for family and caregivers to take over the decision-making process and not allow the resident to have a say. Keeping seniors in the loop every step of the way as they move into new surroundings.

Encourage engagement: The best way for a new resident in a nursing home to acclimate and fit in is to engage in activities and conversations with other residents and staff. A mix of meeting and socializing with new friends and regular visits from familiar friends and family is likely to help seniors in unfamiliar environments feel safe and more comfortable.

Make it feel like home: Personal items such as photographs, furniture items, and family heirlooms make even the most sterile nursing home space feel like home. Updating display space with photos and other items that mark the passage of time helps seniors identify with the family community and dynamic.