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As the baby boomers age, we have lots of decisions to make about health care. I currently have two older parents, and fortunately, they are mentally sound, but they have had a lot of medical issues with a stroke and cancer. My in-laws have had many health issues too: broken hips, heart problems, dementia, and Alzheimers. They are all awful diseases and situations.

Fortunately, we have been able to keep our parents at home. However, there are numerous people who are not as lucky. Those individuals must turn to institutions such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There are MANY such facilities that are competent, good and reliable. BUT, the sad truth is that there are a lot which are not. Consequently, when you are making decisions as to whether or not your loved ones should move into such a place, you should not make the decision hastily. Here are some things to think about:

  • Don't make a decision in less than 24 hours (like many do). A lot of times the hospital social worker will make the recommendation, but you should do your own due diligence. Even consider crowd sourcing the decision on social media sites.
  • Talk to current and former residents of the home you are considering. Hopefully, they and their family members can give you some insights.
  • Start the process early. If you have a good idea that such a place will be necessary, go ahead and get on waiting lists.
  • Personally visit each home and speak to the administrator, director of nursing and admissions coordinator about their plan of care for your loved one – TAKE NOTES!
  • Don't settle for MINIMUMS!! What does this mean? State and Federal laws have minimum staffing requirements. These are minimum, and it requires a lot of staff to properly care for patients. Make sure the home you are considering puts a premium on the number and quality of staff.
  • Make sure you choose the appropriate facility for the health issues your loved one has. For example, if your loved one suffers from Alzheimer's disease, you want a home which is accustomed to caring for such patients and not one simply trying to fill a bed.
  • Arbitration agreements have become standard in nursing homes. Consider a home which doesn't try to eliminate their accountability and responsibility by requiring an arbitration agreement. The facility should not have to hide behind such an agreement – they should be willing to let 12 people decide whether or not they provided appropriate care if something goes wrong.
  • Finally, ask what kind of insurance coverage they have. Many homes are now caring VERY low limits, such as $25,000.00 to avoid liability and paying higher premiums. Make sure the nursing home/assisted living facility you choose carries plenty of coverage. It shows their ultimate concern and not one of simply the bottom line.

We hope these simple steps help you with bringing peace to your family that your loved ones will be properly cared for. There are many other considerations, so take your time and come to a mutual decision. AND, make sure you continue to monitor the facility once your loved one is a resident. Many of the admissions personnel can talk the talk, but when it comes down to it, do they walk the walk? Unfortunately, we don't see these issues arise until something goes wrong: bed sores, ulcers, dropping patients, improper nutrition, dehydration, failure to comply with physician orders, improper hygiene, etc.

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