“Everybody’s financial situation is different,” said licensed social worker Edie Belue of Senior Rehab & Recovery at Limestone Health Facility. “They need to have a trusted person they can talk with.”
The good news is that skilled nursing care centers have professionals on staff to guide you through the options including Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care insurance policies and private payment. Call and ask to speak to the admissions counselor or social worker. There’s a great deal of assistance available at no cost or obligation to you.
4. Document your loved one’s wishes – in writing
While this is certainly no easy conversation to start, it is an important one. Near the end of life, more than one in four older Americans face decisions about medical treatment that they are not capable of making, according to the National Institute on Aging.
“Sometimes you just have to say, ‘I love you and you’re probably going to outlive me – but I want to know your wishes. I don’t want to be second-guessing about what I think you would want,’” Pattillo said.
This kind of advance care planning can include an advance directive, with written instructions about a person’s wishes to guide medical decision-making in the event your loved one cannot communicate. Advance directives often take the form of a living will, which defines the medical treatment a patient would prefer. These documents can also designate someone as a medical power of attorney to make health care decisions on the patient’s behalf.
Requirements can vary from state to state, and support agencies for senior citizens can often connect you with free legal assistance. This directory of Area Agencies on Aging in Alabama may be helpful.
5. Get everybody on the same page
Ideally, an elderly person residing in a skilled nursing care center has what Belue calls a “united caregiving front.” That means everyone is on the same page, with a shared understanding of the person’s wishes, plans and preparations.
“I would absolutely encourage a family meeting where you sit down and talk about these things and make sure everybody understands,” Belue said.
Family members and others with close connections to your loved one need to be familiar with any advance directives, and copies of these documents should be shared with doctors and the skilled nursing care center.
“These things may change,” Belue added, noting that plans and documents will need to be reviewed periodically. And give serious thought to a “plan B” if your loved one’s preferred care option could cease to be viable for financial or other reasons.
6. Take the next step to provide the best possible care for your loved one
Given that 70 percent of Americans will need some form of long-term care; how do you know when it’s time for your loved one to move? “Sometimes it is a sudden realization, a crisis point,” Belue said. “And sometimes it is a gradual realization.”
If an acute illness or injury causes a sharp decline in an elderly person’s independence, moving that loved one into a skilled nursing care center can be a clear-cut decision. Other times, caregivers must discern when a familiar setting can no longer offer the safety and security of a true home.
Safety concerns usually take priority. Sometimes there are immediate dangers. Dad got lost in the neighborhood. The stove was left on leading to a fire. Other issues are no less serious – such as weight loss due to missed meals, inability to take medication properly or poor hygiene. Sometimes in-home caregivers can no longer keep up with daily needs.
“Home becomes a feeling, and we want to continue to provide that love and compassion and care for our residents.” Belue said. “They don’t live where we work – this is their home and we work for them.”
Adapted from “6 Steps You Can Take to Plan for Long Term Care Before It’s Too Late” published by https://careconversations.org.
Sallie Owen Gowan is a freelance writer in Montgomery, Ala.