Preparing your elderly parents for a nursing home

Steps to Preparing Your Elderly Parents for a Nursing Home

When the time comes for one or both parents to enter a nursing home, adult children are faced with several decisions on how best to prepare for this transition. Depending on what previous plans had already been put into place, here are a few basic suggestions for preparing your elderly parents for a nursing home.

Understanding housing options

If it becomes apparent that one or both parents can no longer safely age in place, one of the first considerations is housing options. Two of the most common options are assisted living facilities and nursing homes.  Basically, an assisted living facility is a place where seniors live semi-independently and receive limited help with certain day-to-day activities. The exact levels of care and types of services that are offered vary from facility to facility and often depend on state regulations. A nursing home is where residents who cannot live independently receive extensive and ongoing care. Nursing homes typically provide more frequent and comprehensive personal care services than what you will find in assisted living facilities. If possible, helping your parents understand these differences and agree to one or the other can help the transition from living at home to a facility easier. Visiting facilities can help this process. Many have a waitlist, so it’s a good idea to start this process as early as possible.

Take stock of your parent’s existing belongings and household

Seniors that are moving from their home to a nursing home or other facility likely have a household that needs to be sold, and a house full of belongings that need to be reckoned with. It’s a good idea to involve family members as needed to help get a grasp on what the current situation is regarding the home (sell, rent out, or another option) as well as what is to be done with the home’s possessions. Depending on the facility, there may be several items that can be taken to the new place, but space if often limited, which means decisions need to be made regarding your parent’s belongings. There are several ways to distribute a parent’s belongings fairly or decide what items should be sold or donated. This article offers several options on how to do this.

Understand your parent’s financial responsibilities

One of the most challenging steps when preparing your parents for a nursing home is how to handle current finances. Parents likely have some combination of debts, monthly bills, investments, and other financial assets that need to be handled. If they have a financial advisor, it’s a good idea for one or more siblings to have access to that advisor and the accounts if possible, to help make decisions about the estate. While some monthly bills, such as utilities, may be eliminated with the sale of the home, there may be other ongoing monthly bills that require ongoing bill management. If your parents were already taking advantage of a professional bill paying service, this process will be much easier as these kinds of services allow oversight by a family member, and ongoing bills are all documented in one place. It’s important to make sure that all aspects of your parent’s financial situation are being handled by siblings or a responsible family member before they enter into a facility.

Create a plan for ongoing involvement with the facility regarding parent’s care

While there are many credible, caring nursing homes out there, it’s still very important that family members stay involved in the ongoing care of parents once they enter the facility. Establish a point of contact at the facility so that you may communicate with them on an ongoing basis to ensure your parents are receiving the best care possible. Make arrangements for family members and friends to visit consistently to help establish and maintain a social routine for your parents. Be aware of any changes you see in your parent’s behavior or appearance, and don’t hesitate to question it. If you run into true difficulties and the facility isn’t responding to your needs, know who to contact at the state level to get your concerns addressed.

Transitioning one or both parents to a nursing home is a very challenging process. Understanding what needs to be done can help this become a little easier. The above suggestions are a good place to start.

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