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What do you do when one parent needs a nursing home and the other does not? – Sue LeDoux


(Photo: Unsplash)

I want to introduce my guest blogger, Annabelle Harris.

    Annabelle Harris is a 67-year-old writer, wife, mother, and grandmother. She started blogging nearly a decade ago when she was still facing the prospect of retirement and old age. She was terrified and needed an outlet for her thoughts, fears, and uncertainties. It was through her first blog that she found the support of a community that truly helped her through the process of aging.

Today, she is paying it forward with Elders.Center. Her goal is to help soon-to-be-seniors and already-seniors move gracefully into their golden years with less fear and more confidence. The site features a plethora of resources to help answer common and not-so-common questions about aging.

https://elders.center/about/

What Do You Do When One Parent Needs a Nursing Home and the Other Does Not?

As people age, their health doesn’t always change at the same pace. As a result, you may have one parent who needs the full-time support that only a nursing home can provide and another who doesn’t.

When that happens, it’s hard to figure out what to do.

Choosing a Nursing Home

Selecting a nursing home is challenging in its own right. After all, there are about 15,600 nursing home facilities in the United States, and each one brings something different to the table. The quality of life at each one can vary. Some offer specialized services, such as memory care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia, while others don’t.

Staffing levels can also differ. While there are federal and state requirements (for example https://www.health.ny.gov/facilities/nursing/) regarding staffing minimums, some nursing homes go notably above and beyond, so it’s a smart point to review.

In many cases, the easiest way to begin is to check out an online comparison tool, https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/?providerType=NursingHome&redirect=true   Checking for Medicare termination notices is wise, as well as researching nursing homes for known care quality issues.

When you start narrowing down your choices and scheduling tours, bring a straightforward checklist with you. https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/en/assets/resources/nursing-home/NursingHomeChecklist_Oct_2019.pdf . Then, you’ll have an easy way to take notes and ensure you’re covering all the critical bases.

Covering the Cost of a Nursing Home

Paying for a nursing home is tricky. Medicare only covers short-term stays and has income restrictions. https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-part-a-covers/how-can-i-pay-for-nursing-home-care. If your parent is a veteran, they may be eligible for Aid and Attendance. https://www.va.gov/pension/aid-attendance-housebound/  You can also use other insurance policies if they’re available. However, that may not be an option or could be insufficient to handle the cost. If that’s the case, you’ll need to explore other avenues.

With nursing homes, paying out of pocket is an option. Your parents could use their income and savings, or you and other family members cover it. While this approach is challenging, it’s less so if everyone comes together and chips in to address the cost.

Selling your parent’s home could also free up funds for a nursing home. However, you could also explore renting it out, allowing the house to remain in the family while it produces income. https://www.redfin.com/guides/sell/should-you-sell-or-rent-your-home If you’re considering renting out the home, you’ll need to figure out if you have the time and funds to step into the role of landlord.

Landlords must handle all major and most minor repairs, which isn’t easy if you’re short on cash. If you don’t have the time to tackle all the responsibilities, a property management company could help. They’ll screen tenants, handle rent collection, and arrange for maintenance and repairs, all on your behalf.

If you need money fast to cover the transition into a nursing home, you could also look at a bridge loan. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bridgeloan.asp  It’s a reasonable option for short-term financing, giving you money until you either sell or rent out your parent’s house.

Sue’s two cents: You should always discuss paying for long term care, in or out of an institution, with an elder law attorney and perhaps a financial advisor as well, waaaay before you think you will need to make any moves. For example, did you know that when applying for Medicaid coverage, there is a five-year look-back to see if funds have been transferred? So any gifts you may want to give your children would be a red flag. It is never too soon to put yourself in the correct financial position, perhaps by use of trusts, to know what you should or should not do financially several years ahead of time…Now back to Annabelle.

Downsizing Your Other Parent

In some cases, your other parent will need to downsize after their spouse transitions to a nursing home. If that’s the case, be gentle as you assist them with the process. In many cases, they’ll need to pare down their belongings, something that can be hard if the items trigger memories of their spouse. Similarly, leaving a home that they shared is difficult, even if they know it’s the best option.

Make sure you’re compassionate as you work with them. Don’t judge their feelings about an item, regardless of its condition. If your parent is hanging on to it, there’s likely a reason beyond the belonging’s usefulness.

When it comes to choosing their new home – suggesting they aren’t moving in with you – look for a location near the nursing home. If you can find a spot within walking distance, that’s ideal. Otherwise, a quick drive or bus ride away will work. That way, they can easily visit their spouse whenever it’s possible, making it easier for them to remain connected.

Thank you Annabelle

Used with permission from Susan LeDoux.

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