The decision to seek out nursing home care is a delicate matter that touches on the complex intersection between family dynamics, financial resources, medical concerns, and the personal preference of the person who will be entering the home. But what if the person who will be entering the home doesn’t want to go? Is it possible to force an unwilling parent into nursing home care if it’s necessary to protect their health and safety? Do the children or grandchildren have any legal authority in this scenario? How can you help gently persuade your parent or grandparent to accept the medical supervision they need to live safely? Nursing home abuse attorney Brent Wieand offers tips for concerned family members, and goes over some of the legal limitations on non-consensual nursing home admissions.
How to Find a Quality Elder Care Facility: Medicare Compare
It would be difficult to broach this subject without first addressing the elephant in the room.
Speaking frankly, nursing homes suffer from a negative public perception. Many people imagine nursing home settings to be drab and impersonal, and even more significantly, worry about the potential for caregiver abuse and nursing home neglect. Other people dislike the idea of being separated from their friends and loved ones, or feel threatened by the thought of losing autonomy and relying on others for physical care and domestic assistance. For any and all of these reasons, it is not uncommon for seniors to resist the idea of entering a nursing home.
Yet in spite of their troubled reputation, the reality of the matter is that nursing homes are as varied as the individuals who populate them. While it cannot be argued that these issues exist in certain facilities, no two homes are exactly the same — and you have the power to make an informed decision. You can dramatically reduce the risk of selecting a substandard facility simply by putting in the effort to do your research on the options which are available to you.
Toward that end, we strongly recommend researching potential homes with the free, online Nursing Home Compare tool supplied by the federal government through Medicare.gov. This easy-to-use tool allows users to compare thousands of nursing homes just by entering the zip code for your geographical area.
To use a real life example, entering 19130, one of the zip codes for Philadelphia, returns 183 nursing homes within a 25-mile radius. Some of these homes score very poorly, while others have earned excellent, above-average ratings. Let’s compare two examples from opposite ends of the quality spectrum: the Hopkins Center in Wyncote, PA, and the Beaumont at Bryn Mawr in Bryn Mawr, PA.
The Hopkins Center scores low across the board, earning only one out of five possible stars for health inspections (“much below average”), two stars for staffing (“below average”), two stars for quality measures, and one star for its overall rating. By comparison, the Beaumont enjoys excellent ratings: five stars (“much above average”) for health inspections, staffing, quality measures, and overall rating.
While the Medicare Nursing Home Compare tool is an excellent first step, it is critically important to visit potential homes in person. Are the staff friendly, respectful, and helpful, or do they seem unenthusiastic and impatient? Is there ample light and space, or are the physical quarters dark and confined? Does the building appear to be neat and well-maintained, or does it seem run down?
While ratings and statistics are valuable quality gauges, observing these factors in person will give you a better, fuller impression of what staying at the home is really like, and can help set your loved one’s mind at ease that he or she will have a positive experience at a home which is right for their needs and personality. Directly confronting fears about the potential negatives of nursing home facilities is the best way to identify which homes are most likely to provide compassionate, high-quality care that will improve your loved one’s quality of life.
Is it Legal to Force an Unwilling Person into a Nursing Home?
Of course, some individuals will remain resistant to the idea of admission, even when presented with reassuring facts. This can create an enormous degree of stress and uncertainty in situations where the child or grandchild is worried that the elderly person is at risk of hurting themselves or even putting their life at risk, as is often the case in situations involving dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or frequent falls. But is it possible or even legal to force a person into a nursing home against their will?
The answer is both yes and no depending on the details of your situation and the steps you are willing to take. Generally speaking, you cannot force an unwilling person to enter into a home. However, it may be possible for you to be appointed as your parent or grandparent’s guardian or conservator.
Conservatorships and Guardianships, which are handled by special courts called probate courts, are designed to grant decision-making authority to individuals acting on behalf of persons who cannot make financial or medical decisions for themselves due to some incapacity. Such incapacity must be determined by the probate court based on evidence supplied by the person seeking conservator or guardian status.
The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania summarizes this issue succinctly:
When an individual reaches the age of 18, regardless of any functional limitations or
disabilities, s/he has the legal right to make decisions on his or her own behalf. Only a
court, after a legal proceeding, may judge an individual to be incapacitated and appoint
a guardian to make decisions for him or her.
If you’re concerned your elderly loved one needs professional care, or if you’re worried about potential abuse or caregiver negligence, nursing home injury lawyer Brent Wieand can help you start exploring your legal options. To set up a free and completely confidential case evaluation, call Brent right away at (800) 481-5206.