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Published August 10, 2013, 10:00 PM

Minding Our Elders: Social mother wants to live in nursing home

Many modern nursing homes offer pleasant environments with abundant choices of activities well as good hands-on care. There are some facilities that still haven’t improved much from the old models so you’ll want to do your homework, however the areas of the country where you and your brother live offer some nice options.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

DEAR CAROL: My brother and I share the care of our 86-year-old mom. Though she’s good mentally, Mom’s had several strokes and uses a wheelchair. My brother and I feel we are doing the right thing by sharing Mom’s care. Since neither of us can take care of her full time, we split her care between our homes in North Dakota and Minnesota, but mom says she wants to move to a nursing home. She loves being around people and I’ll admit she doesn’t have much of a social life with us. Still, isn’t it better to look after her ourselves? Mom has a little money put away, but it won’t last long. Should we insist she stay with us or should we look for a nursing home for her? – Sharon

DEAR SHARON: It seems to me that the right thing for your mom is what she’s asking you to do. I’m sure you and your brother both try to make her feel at home, but moving around makes it hard for her to feel that she has her own place.

Many modern nursing homes offer pleasant environments with abundant choices of activities well as good hands-on care. There are some facilities that still haven’t improved much from the old models so you’ll want to do your homework, however the areas of the country where you and your brother live offer some nice options.

You can go online to the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov. Type in the Zip codes that would be appropriate and you’ll see the names of nursing homes in that area. When you’ve whittled down choices, start touring the facilities. Bring your mother along if she’s able to go without undue fatigue.

Once you have a nursing home in mind, you can contact the long-term care ombudsman for that nursing home. Just go to www.ltcombudsman.org and type in the facility’s Zip code. Ask the contact person if there are any complaints against the home, and if so, what they are. This is just another safeguard. Remember that no home will please everyone, so there may have been complaints that are largely unfounded.

While visiting facilities, observe how the residents respond to their caregivers. There should be an atmosphere of comfort and serenity. If staff members give tender hands-on attention to the residents and seem generally happy in their work, you’ve likely found a good place. If you see residents’ family members around the home, try to talk with some of them and ask their opinion of the facility, as well.

It sounds like your mom will be able to pay for her own room for awhile, which is a good way to start, but be sure that the facility you choose is one that will let her stay if her money runs out and she needs to go on Medicaid. If at all possible, you want to prevent the need for a second move.

Good luck with your search. I believe your mother deserves to make this decision, and once she’s settled, you and your brother will also likely feel good about her having a permanent home.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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