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Can my elderly parents be forced to move to a nursing home?

If you are the adult son or daughter of elderly parents, the time may come when you must make arrangements for the continuation of their care in a more structured environment than the home they share now.

In many circumstances, these moves are fraught with emotion. Hard feelings may arise between the parents and adult children, or between siblings who don't agree on the decisions being made. What can you do to ease a painful transition?

It's usually best to begin communicating about these matters before the need arises. While your parents are still mentally acute, ask them what their preferences are for the future. Many will likely express a desire to age in place, and that may be possible. But doing so usually requires a generous long-term care policy to be in place to cover aides and other assistance they will need as their mental and physical conditions decline.

Take a critical look at the home where your parents live now. Is it on one floor, or will mom and dad have to navigate basement or upstairs flights of steps to get to laundry facilities and bedrooms? Could modifications be made to the home to make it wheelchair accessible if necessary?

If not, your parents may become convinced that they would do better in an assisted living facility, or at least a ground-floor apartment.

If they appear amenable to moving, you may need to assess the housing market and determine whether renting out their former home would be better than putting it straight on the market. Either way, repairs and refurbishments will probably be in order.

When parents remain resistant to any suggestions of moving, adult children face a much deeper level of difficulties. Legally stripping a parent of their rights to their own self-determination rarely ends well. The resentment such actions incur usually destroy whatever remnants of the relationship that remain.

Speak frankly to your parents. Ask them how they would cope in a true emergency, e.g., a break-in, a fire or a medical crisis. Could live-in help mitigate some of these worries, and is it even affordable?

Also, remember that even critically ill patients with dementia or other illnesses have legal rights. Any actions that you take legally can be countered by a guardian appointed by the court to look out for their best interests

Source: A Place for Mom, "Common Questions and Answers," Ann Meyerson Ph.D., accessed June 16, 2017

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