The most anxious people we see here at AlerStallings are children of elderly parents who are in a nursing home care crisis. Suddenly, mom or dad has to come to terms with moving out of the family home, possibly being away from a spouse for the first time in decades, being unable to care for himself or herself, and becoming dependent on the children for the first time. During this difficult time, we sit down with groups of nervous siblings and in-laws who all have the same question: What is the best way to take care of mom and dad? While answers may differ slightly depending on the specific situation, we have several pieces of advice for all families faced with a nursing home situation.
- Be honest with mom and dad. Mom and/or Dad need to hear the truth. If Mom can’t take care of Dad any longer, or if the child can’t provide what Mom and Dad need, then they need to know. If someone needs to stay in the nursing home, it is important to have everyone on board with planning for a long-term nursing home stay, rather than creating future contention by allowing Mom or Dad to think that they are coming home.
- Go through the shoeboxes. To provide a sound recommendation, we need an accurate account of the family finances. We need to find the value of each account Mom and Dad have, a reasonable value of the family property, and the location of the most recent tax returns. If we are pursuing Medicaid, we need these records going back five years.
- Don’t do it all yourself. One important thing to keep in mind is patience. Lots of people may give you advice, whether solicited or unsolicited, about what to do when facing a nursing home crisis. Keep in mind that these individuals may be self-interested and not acting in the best interest of your family. Instead of trying to do it yourself or relying on someone who has differing interests than you, schedule a time to meet with an elder law attorney (see step 4). Asset transfers, benefit applications, and other “self-help” measures can do more harm than good, and the problems created cannot always be fixed easily. Your attorney may advise you to transfer assets and sign paperwork, but only after a careful review of your situation and a determination of need.
- Consult an elder law attorney. Many clients come to us after having already been told by a nursing home social worker or at a county department of jobs and family services (Medicaid caseworker) that there is nothing that can be done. An attorney who focuses on elder law will often have very different answers to your questions than a nursing home employee or a county caseworker. They can often offer unique solutions that can save your family time, headaches, and money.
If you have a nursing home crisis, act with a sense of urgency. Every month you spend contemplating what to do is costing your family money that could be saved with proper planning. If you or someone you love is paying privately for a nursing home or is going to need one soon, please call us at 1.877.912.3464. We will make it a priority to sit down with you and welcome the opportunity to be your guide through this difficult process.