By Darlynn Morgan, Elder Attorney

Americans are living longer than ever, and with that increased longevity comes some tough questions.

Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home can be one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make.

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, your loved one will need nursing home care.

To help you make the right decision in choosing a nursing home, here are a few questions to ask yourself ahead of time.

1. What Are The Alternatives To Nursing Home Care?

Let’s face it, no one wants to go into a nursing home.  But often, families don’t see any other option. They’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.

2. 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 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 serious planning and thought to ensure that you are making the right decision and choosing the right nursing home.  Don’t go it alone.

Talk to an experienced Orange County elder 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 $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today and mention this article.