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WHERE DO WE TAKE YOU?

nursing-home-resident.jpgQuick! You can no longer stay in your home or apartment. Where should we take you? I was faced with that issue years ago. My father, age 84, was fully mentally competent and able to care for himself and his home. While he was outside trimming his hedges, he fell and broke a hip. He had successful hip surgery. However, just a few days before he was to be discharged from the hospital, his care manager told me, "He will need thirty days to rehabilitate in a skilled nursing center. Where would you prefer we take him?" I then had three days to find a facility where (a) they could care for him; (b) I would feel comfortable taking him; and (c) he would feel comfortable living. On such short notice, I found a facility that, on its face, looked great. However, it was truly a nightmare after moving him there. I think it would have been very different if he was not mentally aware of what was happening. During his stay, he found out one of the nurses was "skimming" pills. She gave him the medicine he knew he was to receive one evening, but when he counted them, one pill missing. When he inquired, she said, "Oh, you already took that one." He knew that was not the case and, the next morning, he reported her. She was eventually fired. Apparently, she had been doing this for months with unsuspecting residents! One day, my father came back into his room from a meal to find a naked, elderly woman in his bed. She thought it was her room. Most depressing to him was having to deal with the smell and the vacant stares he received from other residents there. Although he realized that is the way things often are in any long term facility, it affected him greatly. On the day I was moving him out of that center, while I was moving his things to my car, he got up and, using his walker, walked the three long hallways to get out the front door. He was that glad and that determined to get out of that facility!

Based on this experience, I recommend to my clients that they keep a "short list" of places they wouldn't mind going to live, if the need arises. Often, "Plan B" is to go live with a child. ("Plan A" is always to stay in your own home!) However, what if - similar to my father's situation - that won't work? What if, after a period of living with a child, that arrangement should no longer be acceptable or possible? What would you do? If you have visited and investigated retirement centers, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and memory care facilities in your area (or in the area where you intend to live), you will be better prepared should the need arise to make such a move. I recommend talking to friends, neighbors and church acquaintances about places where they have loved ones. If you know nurses, physical therapists, or other health care professionals that deal with elderly patients, ask them. Often, they can describe problems or other situations that might steer you away from a facility that otherwise might seem attractive. Even after you have prepared your "short list", you will want to reevaluate it regularly. Management of these facilities changes. The physical facility often deteriorates over time. New options become available. Therefore, if you investigate each facility as well as new ones in the area, you may revise your list over time.

By making this list, you will avoid the anxiety of having both you (if competent) and your family having to make last-minutes decisions for your care, whether it be short term or permanent. Don't leave this very important part of your estate planning up in the air. Make this decision and add it to your letter of instruction to your family, caregivers, or loved ones. You'll be very glad you did.

 

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