Moving to a Nursing Home

Dave's picture

My 91 year-old step mother Jewell (not her real name) is 91, legally blind (macular degeneration), lives in a nursing home in Moorhead Minnesota (adjacent to Fargo North Dakota) She moved from her apartment in a wonderful assisted living retirement home for over twenty years, ten of which were spent with my father before he died in 2000.  They had a two bedroom apartment.   The home is in Fargo and run by the nuns of the Presentation Order.  It provided just about everything a senior would need to maintain the desired level of care for the residents: meals, medical, transportation, church services, and more.  But even with all that, as Jewell aged, her needs became more than what the good sisters could provide.  It was becoming apparent that to keep her safe, she would have to move to a nursing home.  What follows next is how that trying event happened.

We all face that decision with dread.  Uprooting an aging parent who has become very comfortable in their home can be traumatic.  Our approach to Jewell was to let her make the decision.  We nudged her in that direction, but in the end, the decision was hers.  Let me share with you our process.  Let me remind you this was our family’s process and may not work for you.  We all know that every family is unique and has its unique set of circumstances.  Here is Jewell’s story.

Jewell had fallen several times and couldn’t get-up.  Luckily for her she subscribed to the Life Alert system.  All she had to do was push a button on her Life Alert necklace and help would be at her door.  Also her mobility began to slow down to the point where she needed help getting out of her chair and down the hall to the bathroom.  Now the staff would stop by her apartment three times a day to help her, but overnight, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 AM the next morning, she was on her own.  Through the help of the home, we contracted with a care service that would send a caregiver to spend the night with her to assist her in her needs.  This came at a price of $17 per hour.  Do the math - $17 times twelve hours per day ($204) times seven days a week ($1,428) times 52 weeks a year ($74,256).  This would drain her retirement nest egg in short order.

I mentioned that Jewell is legally blind because of macular degeneration.  She has limited sight.  Macular degeneration clouds the vision in the middle of the eye and slowly works its way outward.  There is no cure.  Therefore Jewell cannot take care of writing checks and balancing her checkbook.  Enter her accountant, let’s call him George.  George is a semi-retired CPA  Dad knew from church and probably the golf course.  Before Dad died, he arranged for George to stop by once-a-month and take care of Jewell’s bookkeeping needs.  George has faithfully done that and has established an excellent degree of trust with Jewell.  By the way if you are wondering why I’m not doing this, it’s because we live 750 miles away in Saint Louis.

George pointed out to Jewell that if she kept going down the path she was on, her nest egg would soon be empty.  This was the trigger.  Jewell has the stubborn streak of self-independence that is present in most of us.  She was not going to be a burden to others.  So when she looked at her options, she made the decision to move.  Granted she was nudged into it from those of us that loved and cared for her, still the ultimate decision was hers.

I realize we got off easy in this move.  Many of you are facing this decision and your parents may be adamant in maintaining the status-quo.  They may refuse to accept the fact the parent-child relationship is now reversed.  Then I would suggest enlisting the aid of those your parent or parents respect.  Their minister or priest, doctor, friend, accountant to name a few.  Let them plant the seeds of change.  Sometimes we need to hear sound advice from outside the family circle.  That’s what happened in our case.  Jewell is doing as well as expected.  It isn’t home, nor will it ever be, but she is getting the care she needs.  Her caregivers treat her with dignity, attentiveness, and respect.  We now sleep easy knowing she is safe and secure.  The lesson to be learned is that when you and I are faced with that decision, we will remember what happened a generation earlier.

Do you have a story to share?  We would love to read it and so would rChance readers.

Remember, It’s rChance to Live and Thrive, Every Day and in Every Way!

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