The day may come, when in spite of everyone’s best efforts, it’s no longer safe for Mom or Dad to stay at home. This can be a heart wrenching decision for any family to make, especially if you’ve made a promise to your parents that you would never place them in a nursing home. It’s natural to feel ambivalence, sadness, and even guilt when a parent’s caregiving needs become too much to handle.

How do you know when it’s time? For some families, a sudden and serious health crisis forces the issue. Dad has a stroke, is incontinent and no longer mobile, and now requires 24/7 care and an environment that is handicapped-accessible. Or, it may be a gradual realization that even with in-home help, a parent’s health is declining and staying at home is risky. Perhaps your parent has fallen, forgets to take medications, and is becoming more socially isolated and confused. Maybe there have been staffing problems with hired caregivers, assisted living is not enough, and the cost of round-the-clock care is neither practical nor affordable.

Whatever the reasons, the decision to place a parent in a nursing home is seldom an easy one. Ideally, you will have time to consult with your parent’s doctor, research nursing homes, and get your parent’s name on a waiting list before a crisis happens. Family conversations on the following topics may be difficult or awkward but can avoid a host of problems later on:

• What are your parent’s preferences regarding end-of-life care? Advance directives, or a living will, spell out a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment such as the use of feeding tubes, breathing machines and resuscitation measures.

• Does your parent have a trusted person with power of attorney, as well as a durable power of attorney for medical care decisions and finances in the event of mental incapacitation?

• What can your parent afford when it comes to options for care? If your parent has a long-term care insurance policy, what does it cover? How long can your parent pay for the costs of nursing home care before assets, such as a home, must be sold?

Consultation with professionals who understand Medicare, Medicaid and the healthcare system, such as geriatric care managers and elder law attorneys, can go a long way to help and reassure the family when nursing home placement is the best option for your loved one.

We help families in the Big Bend area of Florida, including Tallahassee and surrounding areas determine what is needed to help their family members face the challenges of aging. Please contact us if you need assistance in this area at (850) 894-6720. Even if you don’t live in the Tallahassee area, we belong to the Aging Life Care Association™ and we can help you find a certified consultant in your area.