Is an Intermediate Care Facility Right for Your Loved One?

  • January 18th, 2023

Young adult woman with Down syndrome engaged in art therapy.Though the disability community has largely shifted away from advocating for institutionalization to emphasizing community-based care for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), intermediate care facilities may still be appropriate in some situations, particularly when in-home care is not feasible.

As you plan care for your loved one with special needs, you may find that an intermediate care facility could suit them well.

What Do Intermediate Care Facilities Offer?

Intermediate care facilities (ICFs) are residential institutions for diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These establishments offer extensive care. In handling residents’ financial affairs, transportation, education, rehabilitation, and medical needs, they can lessen family responsibility for caregiving.

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At a residential care facility, your loved one can get support with daily living as well as access to educational opportunities. For instance, staff at an intermediate care facility typically assist residents in developing home care, communication, meal preparation, nutrition, and social skills, in addition to providing social activities and community events. If your loved one needs speech, physical, occupational, or psychological therapy, such a facility may also offer it.

Intermediate Care vs. Nursing Homes

While these institutions can deliver comprehensive support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, traditional nursing homes may remain a better option for those with significant medical needs.

Though ICFs typically employ nurses and are considered low-level nursing homes, they do not offer the same level of care as other institutions specializing in medical care.

Access to Intermediate Care Facilities Via Medicaid

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who do not need extensive medical care but could benefit from support may benefit from the services and structure intermediate care facilities provide.

For those on Medicaid, getting into an intermediate care facility may be easier than getting into a nursing home. This is because states cannot limit access to intermediate care facilities or use waiting lists, Medicaid.gov explains.

Qualifying for Medicaid Coverage

If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, coverage might extend to intermediate care facility fees. Per Medicaid.gov, all states have adopted Medicaid’s optional benefit, known as ICF/IID, which funds care for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. CMS.gov reports that 100,000 people with intellectual disabilities across the United States get the benefit.

Even when they meet Medicaid’s financial eligibility requirements, your loved one must satisfy additional criteria to obtain coverage. They must have an intellectual or developmental disability or related condition, and need and receive active treatment services that involve aggressive, consistent training, treatment, and health services.

Consult a special needs planner in your area to learn more about how your loved one can qualify for this benefit.

Considerations When Choosing an Intermediate Care Facility

Should you decide to explore an intermediate care facility for your loved one with a disability, research your options first.

  • Visiting the facility beforehand will allow you to note whether the environment suits your loved one. Ensure the place is clean and well cared for and the staff is friendly and personable. For those whose loved ones have particular needs, such as ambulatory issues, consider whether the institution can accommodate them.
  • Take the location of the facility into account. Having your loved one close to home can help them stay connected to their family and community.
  • Review the services and programming the organization provides. Does it offer the therapy your loved one requires? Does it include programming for social and community activities?
  • Speak with your loved one’s care team, including physicians and therapists.
  • Consider the alternatives to receiving care in a facility, such as in-home care, which Medicaid may cover for qualifying individuals. While intermediate care facilities can help individuals in some instances, in other cases, those with intellectual and developmental disabilities might do better when they get care at home.

Last Modified: 01/18/2023
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