Five Things to Do Before Your Parent Goes to a Nursing Home
Obtain a durable power of attorney, discuss end-of-life options and more.
Ronnie Friedland, Editor
Articles> Senior Housing Options and Information> Five Things to Do Before Your Parent Goes to a Nursing Home
woman with elderly woman in nursing home

Michael Kort, whose 96-year-old mother has Alzheimer's disease and is in a nursing home, has sage advice about what to ask before nursing home care becomes inevitable. The bottom line is not to miss the chance to ask these questions and make arrangements while your parent is still lucid.

    1. Ask Your Parent Questions About Your Family History

Michael has many questions he wishes he had asked his mother -- particularly about her childhood, relationship with his father, and family history. The moment to ask never seemed right, but now it's no longer possible.

    1. Discuss End-of-Life Options

It's a painful and awkward discussion, but knowing your parent's preferences as to end-of-life options -- such as wishes regarding resuscitation efforts or feeding tube usage -- will help you tremendously. Have this discussion and get your parent's preferences in writing, in the form of a living will.

    1. Choose a Facility For Your Parent that Offers Options for Future Changes in Need

If you need to have your parent move to assisted living, make sure there is an affiliated section where she can move if her condition worsens. Facilities that offer both assisted living and options for increased nursing care help make the transition easier if and when assisted living no longer meets her needs. Many facilities have long waiting lists, but if your parent is in that facility's assisted living section, then she will have priority over people coming from a different setting.

    1. Do Not Let Your Parent Bring Jewelry or Other Valuable Items to an Institutional Residence

At the time she entered an assisted living facility, Michael's mother still derived pleasure from wearing her fine jewelry. It never occurred to him to take it for safe keeping. In fact, he thought having the jewelry would help his mother maintain her identity at this unfamiliar new home. But when Michael's sister went to visit their mother a few months after she moved in, she noticed that some of the jewelry had disappeared. The family will never know what happened. Did their mother give it away? Discard it? Was it stolen? They regret that the jewelry is no longer available as a keepsake, for sentimental reasons, and to pass on to their children and grandchildren as part of the family heritage.

  1. Obtain Legal Powers to Handle Your Parent's Affairs if She Should Become Incompetent
    • Durable power of attorney

In order to make decisions on your parent's behalf, you will need what is called a power of attorney -- a document that allows your parent?to appoint a person or organization to handle her affairs while she is unavailable or unable to do so. A "durable" power of attorney appoints someone to make decisions if an individual becomes mentally incompetent. The document can "remain in effect or take effect only if the person becomes mentally incompetent," thereby protecting the individual's rights while giving someone the ability to handle her affairs if necessary.

Without the power of attorney, a family will likely need to go through the messy and expensive process of going to court to have the parent declared incompetent and then have the court appoint someone to manage the parent's financial affairs.

    • Social Security Administration account

Having authorization to deal with the Social Security Administration on your parent's behalf enables you to inform them of moves your parent makes, such as to an assisted living facility, nursing home or hospice. It also enables you to obtain information about your parent's account and to deposit her social security checks -- though arranging for direct deposit into your parent's bank account can eliminate this latter task.

Authorization can be obtained by going with your still-lucid parent to a social security office, with photo identification of both you and your parent, and filling out a representative payee form application. If this isn't done beforehand, if and when your parent does become incapacitated, you can still go to a social security office yourself, along with photo identification and your parent's name, address, social security number and the name, address, and phone number of a doctor who can verify that your parent is mentally disabled. For more information about this, call 1-800-772-1213.

    • Bank and investment accounts

Power to handle bank accounts can be obtained by going to the bank with your still-lucid parent and adding your name to his/her account(s). Or, if your parent calls the bank or investment service from his/her home phone, she/he can request a form that adds your name to the account, enabling you to access it on your parent's behalf. You and your parent will both need to sign the form, which may need to be notarized.

While having a parent develop dementia or Alzheimer's disease?is terribly difficult, following these tips may lessen some of the associated pain and help you plan for future senior care with less worry.

Ronnie Friedland is an editor at She has co-edited three books on parenting and interfaith family life.

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(11) Comments
My mother really hates being in a nursing home. She won't try to get alone. What can I do to make her more comfortable with her environment? I am 72 so it's hard for me to cope with my own health problems as well as hers. I always feel guilt but had no choice because her assisted living facility told us she had to go to a nursing home for more care than they could give. What should I do? I want to stop feeling guilt all the time and let it go that that is what she needs?
May 31, 2015 at 1:07 PM
Jennifer B
Jennifer B
Dad is 98 yrs old now and several months ago he said he was finding it more and more difficult to manage so he said he might go into a home. However when I got some information he said he had changed his mind. Now he fell while fetching a newspaper from the shop at the top of his street. As an x army man , he is very independent and it is difficult to help him, as he has his own way and we never do it right. If we fetch him any shopping or do things round the house it's never right. We never fall out as I understand how he feels. But we suggested to him he needed more help and he said he may rethink about going into a home. He lives in a rented property so it would be easy to clear the home, however we still need his go ahead. He keeps saying it won't be long before I die so shall I just wait? Me and my husband are so concerned that he may fall again as he is very frail. He won't let me get him any home help, he does everything himself. I know we will just have to keep talking to him, however he can get a little annoyed and says it's his life you just get on with your own life. We don't go on holiday and visit him several times a week and sometimes he will come for his lunch and other times we have taken him for a pub lunch. I know we shouldn't worry so much but I do. We feel guilty as we know he may not live much longer but we are frightened in case he goes out and falls. Need help. We all do.
July 22, 2014 at 7:06 AM
Parents in 80' in council house.
Dad keeps falling...mum sits watching and ordering
constantly off shopping channels.
What do I do? Mum is very argumentative and nasty!
Dad is opposite. Do my sister and I have any say in getting them a bungalo
so risk of falling on stairs is eliminated!
April 6, 2014 at 1:09 AM
Before grandma went to a nursing home 15 years ago she put her house in moms and my name. Mom just moved in with me and has taken her name off the deed to house leaving only my name on the deed. If I sold the house and a year or so later mom goes in nursing home. Will here medacade pay for it or will I .
March 26, 2014 at 11:53 PM
if I put my mother in a nursing home and she does not have enough money to pay for it what happens then? do I have to pay for it? and she has signed the house over to me already is there a time limit that the house will still be mine? and she has giving me money also do I keep that or do I have to have it for a amount of time ?
July 25, 2013 at 8:32 AM
Mary Ann try the vets in your area they may be willing to post a flyer with the picture a description of the pet---male/female color of fur--the breed of dog--how old the pet is---if he or she is very playful--if she has any medical issues. Put a sign in your neighborhood----grocery stores-- ask around and find out if the owners will let you post. Post every where you can that dog deserves another owner to love him as much as she did. I really pray she finds the perfect home. What area of the U.S. do you live in?????
May 22, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Debra W.
Debra W.
If she owns the home, there is no way to get out of the responsibility of taxes, etc. Also, the home must be of 'some value'.

You should consider renting it out and perhaps obtaining a stream of income, even if it is enough to pay the taxes and maintain it. You don't need to charge a lot and if you are savvy enough to post here- you could probably search and find some different sites that contain basic rental agreements. Get a deposit and have the tenant pay utilities.

If you are able to hang onto the home, she will not be forced to sell it to pay bills. If you sell the home, you will be forced to use the money for her care.
When she passes, the home may be all there is left in her estate, but it is something that she would probably want you to have.

When you sell the home once she has passed, you and your siblings will be able to split the proceeds.
Something to consider. A great online "rent by owner" websites are out there. I've used one for a vacation property and it stays rented most of the time. It is easy and they have all sorts of free documents to help you with renting like rental agreements and advice for being a landlord.

Hope that helps!
If she owns the home
June 7, 2012 at 7:33 AM
when my mom goes into nursing home, do i just get all the utilities shut off electricity gas water etc. i do not want to keep the house it is of no value?
if her money goes to nursing home thats what i would have to do
April 27, 2012 at 12:28 AM
took my moms cats in my home,,
January 9, 2012 at 1:32 PM
Rosmari B.
Rosmari B.
I took my mother's dog into my home.
September 24, 2011 at 11:47 PM
mary ann
mary ann
we have a terrible task of what to do with our mother's beloved dog, we cant find anyone to take him and she is so attached, what is the kindest thing to do??
April 28, 2011 at 11:19 AM

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