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Before Placing Your Loved One In Long-Term Care

No longer being able to keep your loved one at home is a point most caregivers will reach. It’s not an easy decision to make, and it's one of the most dreaded decisions I have heard caregivers discuss. However, there are steps that you can take to make the logistics a bit easier. Again, in discussing how my mom, Jean, made this decision for her dad, we offer some pointers.

Talk to your loved one

My mom has stressed our entire lives what her wishes are if something were to happen to her. She encourages this behavior of everyone. She talked to her parents both about death and what they want in life. When the time came, she says, “I knew what he wanted.”

If you have siblings, or other concerned relations, include them in these conversations, and ask your loved ones to identify who should be making these decisions for them. Though it can be a hard conversation to have when everything is peaceful, it’s much better to have it made once life gets tumultuous.

Sort out the legal issues

Jean says she encourages everyone to consult an attorney. In my family’s case, my mom held a power of attorney, making her the decision-maker in her parent's care, however, she later found for Poppop that she needed to acquire guardianship. She believes, had she consulted a lawyer at the outset, that this could have been handled before she encountered any issues.

Consider your timeline

Although considering a nursing home or advanced care facility is not something many people want to talk about, it’s important to weigh it as an option early on, because facilities may not have immediate availability.

You might be waiting for a considerable amount of time for a bed to open up in a chosen facility. So take the time to consider it even before you and your loved one are ready to make that change. Even put your loved one’s name on the waitlist. Poppop was a veteran and, as such, was eligible for placement in a VA facility. Jean had placed him on the list however when his name was called, his circumstances had changed and the spot was passed on to the next in line.

Determine your financial situation

Who is going to pay for long-term care is tricky and will vary from person to person. Whether it’s paid out of pocket, via a long term care plan set up in advance or social services, like Medicare or Medicaid, this will play a factor in what facilities you look at.

Visit and evaluate long-term care facilities

Items to consider:

  • Cleanliness. Are patients in fresh clothes? Are the patients out of bed? Are their needs being met?
  • Activities. Are there events scheduled to keep the patients active? Is there a place to take your loved ones outdoors while you are visiting? This one was important for my grandfather, who enjoyed his time outside.
  • Location. Will the space be easy for you to get to in a crisis or for a visit?
  • Level of care provided. Does the facility offer the services you need?

Do your best with the options that you have

Once Poppop was settled at a nursing home, my mom went to visit at different times, as a sort of spot check on the facility, but she especially made a point at night time to get him settled and tucked in for the evening. This was what worked for her, specifically. “There’s no right or wrong," she says in terms of how you manage it. Either way, "It’s heartbreaking when you leave.”

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