Nursing Home Care or Hospital Stay - Preparing Your Elderly Parents
The decision to place elderly parents in a nursing home or hospital facility requires a lot of thought and consideration regarding various factors. For example, how long is Mom or Dad going to be expected to stay there? Is it a temporary or permanent arrangement? If it's an extended stay, who's going to take care of Mom's apartment or home? How will Dad pay his rent or mortgage while he’s in the hospital?
In addition to the most basic of questions are those that include worst-case scenarios. Depending on the cognitive ability of your parent, is he or she going to be able to handle paying bills? In order to make things easier on your parent, you may find yourself in the role of financial officer for Mom or Dad. Do you know where important papers are located? Do you know who their health care or life insurance providers are, policy benefits, or where your parent’s stand in regard to Medicare or Medicaid benefits?
If you find yourself suddenly in charge of an aging parent’s finances, are you aware of passwords to access online accounts? Do you have permission to access your Mom or Dad's checking and savings account at their local bank?
In addition to the more serious considerations of an extended hospital or nursing home stay for a parent, children are often expected to take care of smaller, though no less important considerations including care and maintenance of a home, re-routing mail, stopping television or cable services, phone service, gardening maintenance, pool services, and more.
The needs of your elderly parents will be determined by whether or not he or she is being placed in a nursing home or hospital for temporary or long-term care. If your parent is being placed in an acute care hospital, you may not be required to deal with long-term scenarios that may range from canceling cable services to putting your parent’s home on the market.
Seniors should have some sort of plan in place in the event of an emergency hospitalization. Such arrangements should be discussed with children, either in person or over the phone. Adult children should be aware of the financial obligations of parents in order to ensure that mortgage payments don't fall behind, bills are not late, and services remain in place.
Here are several things you should know about or ask a parent regarding financial necessities in the event of a relatively short (less than one month to six-week) stay in a hospital:
Here are some other things that you can do:
No one likes to consider that elderly parents may leave his or her home and not return. However, depending on the medical condition and abilities of your parent, it's important to discuss options and possibilities with parents and other family members whenever possible prior to such events. In many cases, it is suggested that family members expect the unexpected or plan for worst-case scenarios.
In the event that you find out Mom or Dad must spend several months or even longer in a long-term care facility or nursing home, you will need to incorporate many of the factors mentioned above and include a few new ones into a plan of action.
For example, in addition to the above factors, you may also be required to consider such options as canceling leases or even putting a parent's home on the real estate market. You may have to contact your local post office and arrange to have your parent’s mail rerouted or delivered to the home of a relative during transition processes. In addition, you may also need to cancel electric service, telephone service, cable services or other utilities while your parent is away.
It is imperative that children or caretakers know where your parent's important papers and documents are located. Examine the specifics of health and life insurance policies and know limits of coverage for their Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
One or more family members should be designated the responsibility for financial matters and know the locations, passwords, and other details regarding an elderly parent’s financial status, including the number of bank accounts, locations, and account numbers of those accounts. In many cases, banks require a letter signed by the owner of the bank account permitting access by various individuals in the event of an emergency.
In cases of long-term care or permanent nursing home stays, it is advisable that families also consider a Power of Attorney and other documents such as living wills, long-term care wishes, and if applicable, whether a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) or any other Advanced Directive is in effect.
Do everything you can to make either a short-term, long-term, or permanent stays in a medical care facility as easy on elderly parents as well as future caretakers whenever possible. Don't wait until the last minute to discuss such issues with your parents, but make the time to prearrange as many scenario considerations that you can possibly think of before you’re faced with a dilemma that may prove expensive, convoluted and messy.