Making the decision to move a loved one to a nursing home is not always easy. It requires a lot of careful consideration and planning, both by you and your family member. One task that must be completed before a possible health emergency arises is putting your loved one’s affairs in order. If something were to happen and you’re loved one is no longer able to speak for themselves, you could be facing a stressful and difficult situation.
Putting Your Loved One’s Affairs in Order
To begin, gather all important papers and legal documents and keep them in one place, such as a safe or fire proof box.
Important papers, information and legal documents include:
- Full legal name
- Social Security number
- Legal residence
- Date and place of birth
- Names and addresses of spouse and children
- Birth certificate and certificates of marriage, divorce, citizenship, and adoption
- Employers and dates of employment
- Education and military records
- Names and phone numbers of religious contacts
- Memberships in groups and awards received
- Names and phone numbers of close friends, relatives, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors
- Medications taken regularly (be sure to update this regularly)
- Living will
- Sources of income and assets (pension from your employer, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, etc.)
- Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid information
- Insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and agents’ names and phone numbers
- Names of their banks and account numbers (checking, savings, credit union)
- Investment income (stocks, bonds, property) and stockbrokers’ names and phone numbers
- Copy of most recent income tax return
- Location of most up-to-date will with an original signature
- Liabilities, including property tax— what is owed, to whom, and when payments are due
- Mortgages and debts—how and when they are paid
- Original deed of trust for home
- Car title and registration
- Credit and debit card names and numbers
- Location of a safe deposit box and key
The next step is to select a healthcare proxy or have a living will be drawn up. A living will gives a person a say in their health care if they become too sick to make their wishes known. Their desired end-of-life care is written down as well as any preventative measures they do not want taken.
A proxy is a person who will make medical decisions for you’re loved one if they are unable to do so. This person should be aware of the values and wishes of the parent or family member so they can make informed decisions. Before making it official, ensure that the chosen person is comfortable making health related decisions, including some potentially very difficult ones.
The proxy or someone in the family should also be aware of any funeral plans your loved one has specified. Have the plans written down and include them with the rest of the papers and legal documents.
In addition to a living will or proxy, there are other health care documents required to gain access to the information you may need or to act on your loved one’s behalf.
A durable power of attorney for finances and HIPAA release
This gives you permission to manage your loved one’s financial affairs, pay bills, sell property, and so on. A HIPAA release gives you access to his or her health records and physicians.
A DNR (do not resuscitate) order
This tells medical staff that he or she does not want an attempt made to try to return their heart to a normal rhythm if it stops beating using CPR or other life-support measures. Without a DNR medical staff will make every effort possible to restore breathing and the normal heart rate.
A DNI (do not intubate) order
Similar to a DNR, a DNI tells medical staff that he or she does not want to be put on a breathing machine or life support.
A revocable living trust:
This allows your loved one to retain control over his or her estate while making transfers of assets to beneficiaries. They designate what property (home, investments, jewelry, and so on) goes into the trust and to whom it will be granted. During their lifetimes, they act as executors of their own living trust. The most important advantage: it allows the estate to avoid probate at the time of death.
A will makes clear who will receive your loved one’s assets and personal property. A properly written will helps to avoid disagreements over the estate after his or her death.
The topic of end-of-life care and planning is emotional but necessary. It’s important to start the process early so you can take the time to gather all of the necessary information before it’s needed. Getting affairs in order early will also allow you to enjoy time with your loved one worry and stress free.
If you or loved one has a question about end-of-life planning, the staff at Shaker Place Rehabilitation & Nursing Center can help. We have a program called Palliative Care that allows a resident near the end of their life to remain at the nursing home and receive care as ordered by their attending physician, taking into consideration the personal wishes. We also have Hospice services that can be arranged through the Nursing and Social Services Department.