Questions to Ask About Nursing Home Care


Last week, I promised to give you some thoughts on nursing home care. And here it is!

Now that we’re living longer than ever, we need to ask some tough questions about how to care for our elders (and ourselves) when the time comes. Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home can be one of the most heart-wrenching decisions you’ll ever make.

Mom, long before her last illness.
Can you believe this woman had 10 kids?

When I was a teenager, my mom was by then almost 60–I’m the youngest of 10 kids and she had me at 43. She had started thinking about her elder years and one afternoon talked to me about it. She was scared she’d end up in a nursing home, like my grandmother–a woman so determined to remain on this planet she stayed in nursing home care for many years, not departing until she’d broken both hips and lost both her legs. My mother was petrified of that end to her otherwise sparkling life. Gripped in worry right along with her, I promised her that she’d never go into a nursing home. NEVER. I even put it in writing. She kept that note, with my promise and my signature and showed me many years later. Thankfully, she never did go into a nursing home. But I could not have keep that promise. Not now anyway.

My mom passed away about five years ago–of her own accord. Dependent on oxygen for life support after years of living with pulmonary fibrosis, my mom decided to remove her oxygen with the help of her family and doctors. She died peacefully, in a hospital she loved, with almost all her loved ones nearby.

But most of us won’t have the option of checking out at will like my mom did. Her’s was a unique situation. In reality, she might well have had to go into a nursing home and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Facing that stark reality for her, for all of us and our parents, we need to have a game plan for dealing with it when (not if) the need arises. Here are some thoughts and questions to ask:

  1. Don’t Wait Until a Crisis Arises.
    The more quickly you have to make that decision, the more room there will be for making a bad decision.The best thing you can do is plan ahead. Anticipate that, at some point, you or your loved one will need nursing home care. Start asking around early and getting familiar with the facilities and options in your area. As the elder, if you have a preference for one form or provider of care over another, make sure your loved ones know what it is.
  2. Ask What Are The Alternatives To Nursing Home Care?
    Let’s face it, no one wants to go into a nursing home.  But often, we don’t see any other option. We’re making the decision to opt for nursing home care at the last minute and in crisis mode.  That’s why pre-planning is so important. Talk to your doctor, local social workers and other elder care professionals to see if there are assisted living or home health care options available to help your loved one.
  3. How Do I Find A Good Nursing Home?
    Shop around.  Planning ahead gives you the option to go and actually visit nursing homes in your area.  Make unannounced visits to homes on your short list and see what’s going on when they’re not expecting you.  And again, talk to your doctor and other local health and social workers and ask them for recommendations.
  4. How Do I Get My Loved One Into A Nursing Home?
    The admission process for nursing homes can be daunting.  Planning ahead gives you more time to go through the process with less pressure.  Talk to the admissions directors of the nursing homes you’re interested in and get information on the admissions process.  Talk about your financial situation and be willing and ready to negotiate.
  5. Who Pays the Nursing Home?
    Talk to a good elder care attorney and see if you’re eligible for assistance.  You may qualify for help from Medicare or Medicaid. This is a particularly tricky area of the law and you need an experienced professional to help you through it, especially if your loved one’s spouse will not be going to a nursing home.  You need to take steps to protect them.  Have your elder care attorney look at all documents before you sign them.
  6. How Do I Make Sure My Loved One Will Get Good Care?
    Again, planning is crucial.  You need to sit down with the nursing home staff and determine what kind of care your loved one will need and what is available.  Have a proper care plan in place from the very beginning and make sure that care plan is part of the contract for your loved one’s admission to the nursing home.
  7. What Are the Nursing Home’s Duties to My Loved One?
    During your investigative process, ask each nursing home for a copy of their duties under the Nursing Home Reform Act.  You may be surprised to learn what rights you and your loved one have.  And again, talk to an attorney specializing in elder law to make sure you understand what the nursing home is, and is not, obligated to do.

Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home requires forethought and planning to ensure that you are making the right decision and choosing the right nursing home.  Don’t go it alone.

Talk to an experienced elder care attorney and find out what your options are with regard to financing, government assistance, your loved one’s rights as a nursing home resident and exactly what the nursing home is obligated to do.

We can help you plan and help you ensure that you’re making the right decisions.  Call us to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session today.   Our Family Wealth Planning Session is normally $550, but each month I make space for two people to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today, mention this article, and ask for one of those two sessions.

NOTE: My sister Mary–a longtime professional in medical technology–offered this link to the website nursing home comparison tool! Thank you Mary!


About the Author - Martha Hartney

A later-in-life attorney, Martha Hartney opened the practice in 2010 to serve the people she loves because she is committed to helping moms and dads bring their greatest gifts into parenting fearlessly and with joy and making sure children are completely cared for if something happens to their parents.

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