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Navigating the finer points of the Assisted Living Admittance process – Or Don’t Wait to plan ahead

Navigating Assisted Living

By Karen Bachelder, Peabody Place family member

How many of you out there have aging parents?  Ok, now, how many of you have aging parents with an actual PLAN for transitioning to assisted living?

As we all know, the best plan for getting old is to A) Win the Lottery and B) have at least eight children who can collectively deal with everything from finances to transportation and everything in between, as you get older.

For those of us whose parents were shortsighted enough not to do this, there are two other ways to handle their transition from regular life to assisted living.

HOW YOU OUGHTA DO IT

In an ideal world, Mom and Dad would start planning WAY ahead. Along about age 75, they’d realize they should downsize and simplify life and move closer to doctors and other amenities. They’d conduct an organized search / tours / applications for assisted living, move at leisure, and then sit back and relax, knowing that everything is taken care of.


HOW (and why) TO NOT OUGHTA DO IT

There are a lot of reasons why otherwise intelligent and capable people fail to implement organized, rational and well-considered transitions.

Sometimes Mom and Dad are just waiting till they get old. (They’re 90 and they’re still waiting.) They don’t realize how much their world and their capabilities have shrunk. Since they’re still “getting along ok,” they “don’t need to go into assisted living” just yet. And maybe you, as their child, don’t want to push them.

But here’s what will happen.

A bomb will go off. It will not be at a convenient time.  Mom or Dad will have a fall or other sudden medical issue. You will have to DROP EVERYTHING. Immediately.

Mom or Dad will be in the hospital and the realization dawns they are not safe to live at home anymore and need to go into a nursing home or assisted living NOW. There will be a VERY short window of time to find assisted living. This is NOT the way to do this!

For starters, assisted living is not like midweek room availability at Motel 6. You can’t just drive up and expect there’s a room ready for you. There are a lot more aging loved ones out there than there are available rooms, and the wait can be several MONTHS or longer. You can’t wait that long.

At this point a frantic search will ensue, and you’ll be on the phone constantly, running all over the State, touring homes and seriously considering putting your SELF into a home while you’re at it. It will be complete chaos, but here are a few suggestions to make things easier.

THINGS YOU CAN DO AHEAD OF TIME

Contact list – list of contacts, account numbers, billing addresses, etc., for everything your parent(s) do / need on a regular basis – banks, credit cards, utility companies, insurance, Medicare, pensions, their attorney, tax preparer, even the lawn care guy and the auto repair shop.

Password list – compile a list of passwords and usernames of everything that involves financial, healthcare and other accounts.  Might sound simple but don’t forget the password to the computer itself!

Wills / Trusts / Powers of Attorney – this should be obvious, but an amazing number of people don’t have one, or just “haven’t gotten around to it.” (See “waiting till we get old” above.)

Be added as a signatory on the Checking Account – you will need this if you suddenly have to pay all the bills, and it’s WAY easier to just BE on the account than to have to go through POA, etc. to get access.

KNOW WHERE THESE ITEMS ARE:

  • Trust and/or Will Documents
  • Durable General Power of Attorney – it needs to be fully signed and enacted!
  • Advance Directives the portable DNR card
  • Recent Bank (checking / savings account) statements
  • Recent Financial / Investment / Annuities / CDs / IRA statements
  • Tax records or other documentation of the current value of your house
  • Copies of Mom / Dad’s ID / Driver’s License, Social Security Card, Insurance Card
  • Copies / proof of deposits of Mom / Dad’s pension(s), Social Security income
  • Long Term Care Insurance policy info
  • Medicare info / card / ID number
  • Any other medical insurance they might have
  • Last year’s Income tax – 1040 form
  • Names / contact info of any doctors who have been involved in recent care

THINGS YOU CAN DO WHEN THE BOMB GOES OFF! 

Organize

This can be hard when your hair is on fire and you haven’t had any sleep in two weeks, but it’s worth it in the long run. Stuff will be coming at you from all directions, and if you’re “just now for the first time,” scrambling to find the household bills, wills, passwords and insurance cards, you’ll need to get the whole mess under some sort of control, FAST. Keep file folders – both digital and hard copies.

And finally – Pick a good home

Ok, seems elementary, but there is a lot of advice out there; nursing home checklists on line for example, and you should definitely use those, but also, pay attention to your gut when you tour the home. If you have the slightest sense of “eeehhhh… I don’t know about this…,” then, run!

You definitely want a high degree of competence, skilled care, and a safe and clean facility, but the personal touches are even more critical. Does the administrator take an active interest in you, and your loved one’s story? (Does she sit in her office with you for an hour, exchanging stories about life with your parents?) Do staff members act happy? (Normally, they WILL be pretty busy, but you can tell if they’re engaging beyond the required basic greeting).

Do the residents seem engaged? (Obviously not all of them can be, but if you see groups out watching TV together, or reading and talking in the common room(s), or just generally looking at YOU with curiosity, it’s a good sign that there is social engagement going on).

Does it feel like YOU would feel at home if YOU were going there?

Those were things that struck me immediately here at Peabody Home, and have made me feel I made the right choice for Dad, and would recommend Peabody to others in my situation.  

So – this is a hard process. It’s exhausting and emotionally draining. If you’re IN a crisis now, do the best you can, stay organized, and take help if people offer it. But if you CAN, get Mom and Dad to start planning NOW.

Do the “Pick a Good Home,” part FIRST, and you’ll be able to make that transition smooth, happy, quite possibly fun and an experience that will forge even tighter family bonds!

Navigating Assisted Living