Prevent This Nightmare from Ever Happening to You
It’s every aging person’s worst nightmare. Something happens. A change in your health. A fall. An illness. A loss of mobility.
Suddenly doctors and family members are talking about nursing homes. And no one seems to take any notice of your thoughts on the matter.
You may wonder … can anyone force you to go to a nursing home if you don’t want to? Unfortunately, under certain circumstances, the answer is yes.
If it’s determined you lack the capacity to make decisions, then the person holding your Power of Attorney can put you in a nursing home. If you haven’t assigned Power of Attorney, it will be assigned for you by the court system — usually to someone from your family. If you don’t have family to take on that role, a lawyer will be assigned the task. He’ll recommend whatever your doctor or hospital recommends. It won’t matter what your wishes are.
But don’t worry. You can take action now to stop this nightmare scenario before it ever starts.
First Key to Staying Independent:
Building a Good Relationship with a Good Doctor
Obviously, the first key to preventing this kind of horror from happening is to not be found to lack the capacity to make your own decisions.
This is the scary part. Any licensed physician can make the decision that you lack capacity. She just has to do an assessment based on state standards to prove that you lack capacity. The most common reason for a doctor to question your capacity is when you choose not to pursue her recommended course of treatment. In about 15% of cases, the physician will call in a psychiatrist to help determine the outcome of the assessment.
So what do you do? Do you just follow along in lock step with your doctor’s every suggestion? What if she suggests you move to a nursing home?
There is a better way. The first thing to do is find a doctor you like—preferably a concierge doctor. See her regularly. Once or twice a year, minimum. Build a relationship. Get to know her. Allow her to get to know you.
Doctors are people, too. A doctor is much less likely to challenge the capacity of someone she knows well than that of a complete stranger.
Second Key to Staying Independent: Assigning Power of Attorney
The second thing you need to do is assign Power of Attorney to someone you trust. Someone who wants to see your decisions and wishes respected. Figure out who that person is and grant him Power of Attorney.
Don’t be scared by this. You’re choosing someone you trust. And his Power of Attorney doesn’t kick in as long as your capacity to make decisions is recognized.
Let this person know, in writing, your desires about the kind of care you want to receive should you become ill, your thoughts on living in a nursing home versus receiving care at home, and your feelings about heroic efforts to revive you if you end up on life support.
A good doctor you trust and a good Power of Attorney you trust. That’s the formula for ensuring you’ll get healthcare that meets your wishes … and for staying out of nursing homes (unless and until you choose to go).
Invest in a House with these 8 Features
to Let You Live Independently
There’s one more way you can protect yourself from being shuffled off into a nursing or retirement home before you’re ready. It has to do with where you choose to live.
Look around your house. If your mobility decreases as you age, will your floorplan still accommodate you? Does your house have steep stairs that could pose a hazard if you lose your balance? If your loved ones think your home isn’t safe, that’s when the “retirement home” conversation is likely to come up.
Think about your neighborhood. Are you close to medical services? Is there plenty to do nearby to help you stay physically fit and socially engaged?
If your current home would not be an ideal place for you to live as you age, consider buying a second home with some of your retirement savings. Perhaps a weekend home or rental property for now, but one that you would enjoy moving into later in retirement. According to MarketWatch, there’s been a 60% increase in this kind of purchase, so you’ll be in good company.
For this purpose, an ideal second residence should:
- Be in a climate you enjoy and that won’t be too harsh on you as you age.
- Have an open floor plan with wide halls and doorways.
- Not have stairs leading to or from the exits.
- Have a main-floor bedroom if it’s a two-story home.
- Have at least one walk-in shower.
- Have medical services close by.
- Provide easy access to activities you enjoy.
- Not bury you under an expensive mortgage or high property taxes.
Taking critical steps now while they are still easy to manage can make your later years a happy, healthy, active time. And that’s the mindset you need to be ready for anything … even retirement.
Do This When You or a Loved
One Need Extra Care
You should plan on enjoying many years of active retirement. However, there may come a time when you or a loved one are no longer self-sufficient and require medical care or living assistance daily.
Searching for a nursing home is never pleasant. Nursing homes can be depressing, with their emergency-room-like atmosphere. The best ones, though, create a more home-like environment for their residents and promote activities to keep people engaged in life rather than waiting for death.
Life in a nursing home is a reality for nearly 2 million Americans. Your chances of needing to enroll yourself or a loved one in a nursing home at some time are therefore considerable.
The average rate for a private room in a nursing home jumped to $90,520 per year in 2012, according to MetLife. Costs are expected to rise year by year. If you have a good long-term care insurance policy, your out-of-pocket costs should be quite manageable.
Being able to afford a nice nursing home vs. being forced to accept a low-grade facility due to lack of money can make all the difference in the world as far as whether you or a loved one’s final years will be pleasant ones.
An alternative to a nursing home may be home care. This is typically a less expensive option, particularly when skilled nursing is not needed during most of the day. A person who is medically well but no longer physically able to do routine things for himself or herself, such as dressing and bathing, may require only supportive services at a fraction of the cost of a full-time nurse or a nursing home. Most, but not all, long-term care policies cover home care.
Medicare provides a directory of thousands of nursing homes nationwide, along with quality measures that enable you to compare one nursing home’s track record against another’s.
To search other types of caregivers for the elderly, call the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116) or visit their web site (www.eldercare.gov).