ALZHEIMER’S: Nursing Homes Open Specialized Care Units
While overall nursing home occupancy rates are in decline, demand for special care units for Alzheimer's patients is increasing, and nursing homes are responding by constructing new specialty care facilities, the Wall Street Journal reports. Currently, 12.6% of nursing home facilities have dementia units, up from 6.2% in 1990. Due to the high levels of supervision required for their care, Alzheimer's patients were once considered financially unattractive clients; however, since Medicare does not pay for "custodial care" services, 50% of Alzheimer's residents pay out-of-pocket -- compared to 20% of other nursing home patients. This means that nursing homes can bill most of these patients based on actual costs, rather than by pre-established rates. Praising the trend toward specialized Alzheimer's units in nursing homes, Marlene Mahn, associate director for residential care at the Alzheimer's Association, said, "The units are a good addition to the options people can choose from when looking for a place for a family member. The units have added a whole new emphasis on Alzheimer's care. They've placed more attention on developing programs and care plans specifically for Alzheimer's patients" (Conklin, 8/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.