Articles Posted in Skilled Nursing Homes

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Real-Life Story

I recently had a preliminary meeting with the adult son of an 82 year old senior who was diagnosed with dementia. The senior had been living with him for a number of years and was having issues with wandering, falling, and incontinence. In order to alleviate the stress of having the senior in the adult child’s home, a part-time caregiver was hired during the day to meet the senior’s care needs. During our meeting, my client did not want me to meet the senior in order to avoid unnecessary agitation. His mother was not born in this country and spoke a limited amount of English. After learning some facts about the senior’s behavior and financial realities, I informed my client that the senior was a candidate for assisted living with memory care. But, the catch was she needed to be in a Continuing Care Retirement Community that would keep her once her funds were exhausted. Or, she could move to an assisted living that offered memory care. Then, she could be moved to a nursing home that accepted Medicaid when she still had enough funds to move to a decent community.

Right after Christmas, my client called me and said his mother had fallen. The rehabilitation community where she was receiving therapy had set a release date for the following week. My client asked me to come and assess the senior and make suggestions for a long-term care community.

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Real-Life Story

My client was 102 years old and had lived in the same independent living community for more than 12 years. She had moved there with her husband when the community was a homey retirement home. After her husband’s death, she remained there with 2 part-time caregivers who provided total assistance with bathing, dressing, escorts to the dining room via wheelchair, and transporting her on errands. She was alert.

When I went to assess the client, I was greeted by 5 family members who were gathered in her lovely 2 bedroom apartment. As they explained to me, the community had been purchased by another organization that was turning it into a glamorous, high-priced, marble-clad independent living community. As I was listening to them, I noticed a baby grand piano occupying the corner of the room. And at one point during the conversation, the caregiver assisted my client with being seated at the piano. She delighted me by playing a wonder rendition of George M. Cohan’s work, “Give my regards to Broadway.” She could still play despite needing help with other activities of daily living!

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As a Certified Guardian, I am often asked to act as a senior’s Power of Attorney for Health Care when s/he doesn’t have a family member who is willing or fit to act for him/her. Simply stated, the Power of Attorney for Health Care grants the designated “agent” control over the senior’s decision-making, including end-of-life decisions if the senior lacks the capacity make the decisions on his/her own. As a Power of Attorney For Health Care, you should be thoroughly familiar with a senior’s personal, financial, and medical history before accepting this serious responsibility. Please read the following real life story that makes my point.


Five years ago,  I was called at the last minute to act as Power Of Attorney (POA) For Health Care for an 85 year-old  woman.  It was the day before she was to move to independent living at a retirement community. Independent living used to mean that the senior can basically function on their own with some assistance with meal preparation and housekeeping. Now there are a lot of ala carte services that can be brought to the senior’s independent apartment, allowing him/her to remain there without changing to the assisted living level of care. The woman’s former POA had moved out of state and had written her a formal letter of resignation. A trust company had been appointed to act as her Power of Attorney For Finances.

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20171031_141154-2-300x225How in the world are busy professionals who also have growing children supposed to find the time to handle their aging parents’ issues – both health and living arrangements?

More and more of them are turning to experienced professionals who have experience in the field and can assist with everything finding the most cost effective and person-centered elder care, to interviewing potential home caregivers, to dealing with legal and financial specialists, to acting as a liaison to Medicare and long-term care insurance companies and even to paying bills.

Chicago Senior Living Advisors, based in Inverness, provides personalized Geriatric Care Management which is designed to assist family members or other unpaid people who are caring for an elderly or cognitively impaired loved one, according to Andrea Donovan, president.

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As I have mentioned in the past, the lines between the levels of care provided by long-term care communities have become very blurred. As the number of assisted living communities providing specialized memory care seems to increase every week, here are some of the things you need to look out for if you are contemplating moving a loved one to one of them:

Last month, I was hired by a family to advocate for their grandfather who had recently turned 100 years old. He was living in an assisted living community that specialized in memory care. Please note that the level of care offered was assisted living only and did not include a third higher level of care, i.e., skilled nursing. When he entered the community a year ago, he had been totally ambulatory and able to take care of all of his activities of daily living with cueing. Shortly after he entered, the community physician decided to take him off of all of his memory-related medications (without the consent of the family), because the doctor felt the medications were adversely affecting the patient’s kidneys. The grandfather went into withdrawal and ended up in a wheel chair needing total assistance with all activities of daily living.

In addition, the absence of using one of the dementia medications made the grandfather combative. The staff at the community claimed that he was at times in need of a three-person assist. Normally, a two-person assist and beyond indicates that person should be in a nursing home. The staff requested that the family look elsewhere for a new community for their grandfather. The staff also requested that the family hire a private caregiver to assist Grampa with his activities of daily living and prevent him from getting out of bed. The cost of his care in assisted living was $8,300 a month, just as much as a nursing home, plus the cost of a caregiver. Since the grandfather was already 100 years old, the grandchildren did not want to move him. Upon the request of the grandchildren, I was asked to attend the quarterly care plan meeting (attended by the Administrator and representatives of dietary maintenance, social work and nursing). Here is what happened:

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This week, I was overjoyed when a former client called me to tell me about her mother’s progress. Her mother was a young 70 when they became my clients less than a year ago. When I first met the elder during an assessment, she was at a short-term rehabilitation community and was covered under Medicare. She had been living in an independent living community with a 24-hour caregiver. A stroke had left her unable to use her left side. Then, the caregiver dropped her while she was transferring her in the bathroom and broke my client’s leg. That is how she ended up in a nursing home receiving short-term rehabilitation.

My client’s 100-day allotment under Medicare rehab was coming to an end, and she soon would have to begin paying privately. Although the care was satisfactory at the current community, she wanted a private room. This nursing home didn’t offer any private rooms. She did have the personal funds to pay privately for quite a while, even though the rate for a private room was over $300 per day. I knew, however, that since she was a young 70, and the cost of nursing home can run $9,000 and above for a private room, she would need the safety net of Medicaid if her money ran out. Because the stroke and the broken leg had left her totally disabled, she had to be transferred in and out of bed, bathroom and shower with the use of a Hoyer lift. I sent the senior’s adult children to tour a half dozen selected communities with the needed equipment, but nothing seemed to pass muster in their eyes. Either the rate for a private room was way too high, they didn’t like the Admissions Director, or the aesthetics were not what they wanted. They were being very specific about their location preference. Finally, I identified a community that was half-way in between for both daughters and had several Hoyer lifts available for the residents’ use. I was also very selective about the physical therapy that would be available to my senior client, as the daughters stated that she may want to pay privately for additional therapy. The therapists at the community were actually employees of the nursing home, not a separate agency. As a result, I knew she would have a better chance at receiving therapy from the same therapists.

When I recently spoke to the daughter, she said, “I have been meaning to call you. My mother has been moved from the nursing home (needing full assistance with bathing, transferring, toileting, dressing, walking and eating) to the assisted living area (some hands-on assistance with the aforementioned activities) of the nursing home. She can transfer in and out of bed and bathroom without the assistance of the Hoyer lift. The cost of her care was also reduced! And it is all because the therapists at this community worked so closely with her to improve her condition. Thank you!”

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Many seniors have a tendency to keep private their financial realities. However, if your senior loved one purchased long-term care insurance to cover the costs of a stay in a community or to hire non-medical home care, you will want to ask if you can look at it. I say this based on the experience I had with my mother, and I share our story lest you should have the same experience.

My mother purchased a long-term care policy 25 years ago. I was amazed that the insurance carriers were able to underwrite her at age 70. Thankfully, she was well enough to pass the underwriting since she had no serious medical issues at the time. However, the agent who sold the policy to her (and who had bragged that she was the number one producer at her company) was not exactly prudent when designing the structure of the plan for a claim that could occur in the far future. The plan that was sold to my mother included a 90-day waiting period before any benefit would be paid. Such waiting periods are common. The plan maximum paid up to $100 per day. That, too, was all right for a plan that was purchased 25 years ago. However, the agent neglected to sell my mother her an inflation guard benefit which would increase her plan’s benefit by 3-4% per year. If an inflation guard benefit had been included, the benefit she would receive would be much more in line with the currents costs charged by her senior living community. The bottom line is, based on the plan purchased 25 years ago, my mother will receive a benefit that will cover $3,000 of her $6,000 monthly cost.

While I am thankful she had the policy, it would have been more valuable if the inflation coverage had been included at its inception. If you know or suspect your aging loved one has purchased a long-term care policy, ask if you can sneak a peek at it!

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Here are five easy steps to help convince your loved one who needs to move:

1. Enlist the child, sibling, or friend who is closest to the senior to initiate the conversation. The senior needs to hear the message from the right person.

2. ​Plant the seeds in very short, non-threatening messages. For example, “Gee, I noticed that you are having a little trouble getting yourself dressed. Don’t you think you would benefit from a little help?” Change the message at the right moment at the next attempt. “I noticed you have been eating a lot of cold cereal instead of a meal. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone cook your meals for you?” Space out the messages and deliver them at the opportune times. It may take months for a senior to decide you are right.

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I want to share a story that may prove helpful to you my readers one day. I serve as the Power of Attorney for Health Care for one of my clients who has severe issues with her memory. She was recently transferred from the assisted living memory care unit of her current community to the skilled nursing section due to failing health. When I went to the nursing home to complete her admission papers, the social worker informed me that there was no completed DNR/POLST form in my client’s file, and I needed to complete one.

In order to accurately describe the form, I am quoting a description from POLST.ORG which reads, “The POLST Paradigm was developed to improve the quality of patient care and reduce medical errors by creating a system that identifies patients’ wishes regarding medical treatment and communicates and respects them by creating portable medical orders. While the POLST Paradigm supports the completion of advance directives, clinical experience and research demonstrate that these advance directives are not sufficient alone to assure that those who suffer from serious illnesses or frailty will have their preferences for treatment honored unless a POLST Form is also completed.”

Although I serve as Power of Attorney for several of my clients, most of them are not nearing the end of life at this point. When I looked at the form (, and admittedly I had seen it before, I was a little overwhelmed. Seeing the form is one thing. Comprehending the reality associated with it is another. I told the social worker that my client’s POA for Health Care clearly stated that she did not want her life prolonged if the “burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits.” I was informed that without the completion of the POLST form, she would be a “CODE 3,” meaning that she would be resuscitated even if the POA form stated otherwise. Hence, the POA form was not sufficient in the absence of a POLST form on file.

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When you have completed the daunting task of choosing the right senior living community for your loved one, your next mission will be to prepare for his/her move. It is very likely that the senior will be moving to an apartment or room that will be much smaller than his/her current living arrangement. Decisions will need to be made as to which items the senior will discard, donate or keep. All of us tend to have difficulty parting with “keepsakes” to which we have emotional attachments; accordingly, it may be a wise decision to utilize the services of a professional organizer when your senior moves.

Sue Becker is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She has worked side by side with my senior clients (including those with dementia) to help them with the highly emotional task of sorting through years’ worth of keepsakes and papers and deciding which items to keep.

Keepsakes: Turn Your Muddled Mess into Meaningful Memories