Question: My mother
can no longer be taken care of at home, and we have been looking at nursing
homes. We would pay for the care and fees. The homes in our area with
the best reputation want us to turn over all of my mother’s assets
to them. After we sell her house, she’ll have about $200,000. What happens
to all that money if we give it to the home and my mother dies in the next
By Carol Abaya, M.A.
ever turn over assets to a nursing home or other health care facility!
As private pay, you should retain control of your mother’s money
and pay the nursing home bills as they come in.
While the homes you
speak of may have a good reputation for care, what they are doing is illegal.
Under Federal law, nursing homes cannot require a large up front fee or
asset turnover as a condition for admittance. Such demands are a crime!
These homes should be reported to HCFA and your state nursing home licensing
Question: My mother
is in an assisted living home. She loves to get dressed up and insists
on putting on earrings and a pin every day even though she’s not going anywhere.
She keeps losing one earring and lately misplacing pins. Some were very
expensive. Then she gets very upset and has started accusing the housekeeper
of stealing them. How can we handle this?
Dressing up with earrings and a pin makes your mother feel good about
herself at a time when she is losing abilities to take total care of herself.
Self-esteem is very important to the elderly. So, you need to encourage
her to continue “looking nice.”
only one earring is common, regardless of age. And if you’ve really liked
them, it’s hard to lose one.
First, expensive jewelry
should not be kept when a person is in a ALF or SNF. You should keep
the costly items at home and enable her to wear them on special occasions
Second, take her shopping
and let her choose some inexpensive earrings and pins that she
likes (under $5 or $10, if funds are limited and loss is very often).
Perhaps without her
knowing it, buy a second pair of the same earrings or pin. Then when
she loses one, you can replace it, saying, “Oh, here it is. You must
have dropped it on the floor.”
This will diffuse
an emotional situation.
Question: My mother
has been in a nursing home for two years, and recently has complained that
staff is stealing her money. The latest loss is $60. I send her $150 on
the first of every month for spending money. How can we stop this stealing?
It is very difficult to substantiate that the staff in a facility is stealing.
It may be that your mother has “hidden” it and can’t remember where she
put it. At the same time, if staff knows she gets a sizable check each
month, they can be tempted.
To reduce the temptation
to steal, send the check to the facility business office and make arrangements
for them to give her money every week. Or a larger amount when she wants
to make a special purchase. Have her keep track of what she spends in
An alternate would
be to have her lock her money in a desk or dresser drawer or jewelry or
metal file box. Make sure you have duplicate keys.
Question: My mother,
82, recently moved into an assisted living home, and constantly complains
about being bored. We’re paying good money so she can take advantage of
activities. We don’t like to complain, but ......
You’re not “complaining” when you ask the home administrator or manager
how your mother is doing. Is she making new friends? Is she participating
in activities? How do they think she’s adjusting.
a dialogue with the staff. Such on-going dialogues are important. If
your mother really isn’t participating, then staff can encourage her more
and help her make the adjustment.
Do keep in mind, that
she may be participating in various activities.
I’ve known for years was confronted by an enraged daughter that her mother
wasn’t leaving her room. The administrator was surprised as the woman
was at every event. She even had pictures showing the mother, in a happy
frame of mind.
Often elders, who
have moved into an assisted living unit, are unhappy. They’ve
been moved from a familiar environment in which they had complete control
over their daily activities. Now they’re in a strange place surrounded
by strangers. Adjustments do have to be made. Give her more time - see
how she does after six months.
Try to find out what
activities are scheduled ahead of a visit. Asking her “What did you
do this week?” leaves it open for a negative response “nothing.” But
if you say, “I understand there was a fabulous dance group here the other
day. Did you enjoy it?” This is a positive approach, and you are more
likely to get a positive response.
If she still has friends
in the community, encourage her - and her friends - to keep in touch and
to continue doing things together.
Question: I am a social
worker at a community hospital. I see too may people kept in the hospital
to die when they would prefer to be home and could be kept just as comfortable
there as here. I talk to the families and suggest hospice, but too often
the dying are left alone to die in the hospital. I know family members
can’t stay here 24 hours a day, but the dying person feels deserted. What
can I do?
You are right in saying many can be kept at home just as comfortably physically,
and more comfortably emotionally. It is a big responsibility on the part
of the family. Understanding what hospice is can go a long way in encouraging
families to participate. While it certainly is a very sad time, it can
also be very rewarding. One woman, whose father was never affectionate
or demonstrative, said to me “I was able to give him all my love during
those last few days, something I hadn’t been able to give earlier.”
Hospice is a service
for the terminally ill, for those diagnosed to have about six months or
less to live, who do not wish to prolong their lives by extraordinary
means, and want to remain at home. A multi-faceted team approach allows
people to die at home with dignity, in familiar surroundings with loved
ones around them.
In her book “Caring
for Life and Death,” Nelda Samarel says “The individual is viewed as
a three-dimensional being: biological, psychological and spiritual. Hospice
focuses on the psychological and spiritual, while permitting the biological
process to follow its natural course.”
Hospice programs also
help family members care for their loved one and cope with the emotional
strain of see a loved one suffer.
The dictionary definition
of hospice is “a house of shelter or rest.” Its history and development
to today’s care for the dying is interesting.
In medieval times,
hospices sat on well-traveled roads and provided shelter for pilgrims,
usually on their way to religious shrines. They were going from one place
In modern times, the
dying person is viewed as a traveler moving forward as death is viewed
as a transformation.
Thus the objective
of hospice is to help dying people “travel” in comfort during their last
In 1978 the need for
formalized hospice care was recognized, and the National Hospice Organization
established. Both professionals working in hospice as well as thousands
of volunteers are specially trained to provide both physical and emotional
support to the dying and their families.
This material is
copyrighted by Carol Abaya Associates and cannot be reproduced in any
manner, print, or electronically.