Several years ago, partner Martin Postic, Jr. faced an issue common in elder care: when your family requires assisted-living or skilled-nursing care, where should you take them? Read about his experience below.
My father was a fiercely independent person. At age 84, he was fully mentally competent and able to care for himself and his home. But one day while he outside trimming his hedges, he fell and broke a hip. Hip surgery went smoothly, and we thought he was set to come home in a few more days. Then, his care manager told us that he would need to spend thirty days in a skilled nursing center to rehabilitate. So I had to ask my dad a difficult question: "Where should we take you?"
The choice wasn't made any easier by the fact that I had only three days to find an acceptable skilled nursing center. At minimum, I needed to find a place (a) that had the expertise to take care of my father; (b) that my father would feel comfortable living in; and (c) that I would feel comfortable entrusting with my father's care. In spite of the short notice, I found a facilitate that—on its face—looked great, so we moved my father in and thought everything would be fine. After all, what could go wrong?
Apparently, a lot. During his stay, he discovered that one of his nurses was "skimming" pills. One day, she gave him his evening medicine—but when he counted the pills, one was missing. When he asked about it, the nurse said, "Oh, you already took that one." My father was a sharp guy; he knew that the nurse had not given him the correct number of pills. We reported the nurse, and it turned out that for months she had been using a similar scheme on other patients. She was eventually fired.
Another day, my father returned to his room from a meal to find a naked, elderly woman in his bed. She thought it was her room. There were many problems like this throughout my father's stay, and it was clear that the management of the center lacked competence. More than any single event, however, what upset my father the most was having to deal with the smell of the place, the noises, and the vacant stares from other residents there. Although that's often just the way things are in a long-term care facility, it doesn't make it any easier on the patient. My father couldn't get out of that place fast enough.
Based on this experience, I always recommend that my clients keep a "short list" of places they wouldn’t mind living, if the need ever arises. Often, "Plan B" is to live with a child. ("Plan A," of course, is to stay in your own home.) But what if those options are not available? What if, after a period of living with a child, that arrangement is no longer convenient or bearable? What do you do? If you have researched 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.
Talk to friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances; ask any nurses, physical therapists, or other health care professionals that deal with elderly patients; get as much advice, input, and experience as you can. Often, people can share stories like mine to let you know potential problems you may encounter at a facility that may make it undesirable to you. Even after you have prepared your "short list," I suggest that you re-evaluate it regularly. Management of these facilities changes, the physical facility often deteriorates over time, and new options become available. Think of it like buying a house: where do you want to live?
By making this list, you can avoid the anxiety of you and/or your family needing to make last-minute decisions regarding your care, whether short-term or long-term. Don’t leave such an important part of your estate planning up in the air. Discuss the issue with your family and add it to your letter of instruction. You’ll be very glad you did.
To discuss legal options regarding estate planning and elder care, contact Postic & Bates today and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation appointment.
[As with all our posts, the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are subject to our site-wide disclaimer.]