Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

It has never been easy to find the proper medical setting for an elderly individual you love. Knowing it will be difficult for your relative to live away from home in a communal setting, especially with medical and perhaps mental or psychiatric issues, you naturally want the very best care possible. Add to this the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the world, having hit nursing homes especially hard, and the task of finding a home for your loved one may seem overwhelming.

At Merlino & Gonzalez, where we frequently have clients from Staten Island and New Jersey facing this challenging situation, we have some advice about how to proceed. We know that once your relative reaches a point at which round the clock care is necessary, very few people have the time or stamina to tend him or her at home, and even fewer can afford to pay for ongoing private nursing care.

Making Sure the Nursing Home You Choose Is Safe and Sanitary

You have to investigate the facility as you would a prospective school or camp for your child with the understanding that the person you will entrust to its care is dependent and vulnerable. Online research is a good place to start, but there is nothing that will substitute for actually seeing the nursing home itself, speaking to its personnel (not just administrators and department heads, but CNAs (aides), and service workers), and to talking to residents.

You will also want to:

  • Look to see whether surroundings are attractive and welcoming
  • Examine the schedule of activities that should be beneficial and entertaining
  • Look at the food served to assess its nutritional value and appeal
  • Check out unbiased ratings by reputable government and nonprofit agencies
  • Look at statistics about sanitation and rates of injuries and disease (especially COVID)
  • Notice whether there are unpleasant smells or sounds of discontent in the facility
  • Check whether there have been any cases of abuse on the premises

When you take an onsite tour of the nursing home, make sure to notice if the patients are clean and well-groomed, if the bathrooms are clean, if the beds are comfortable, if devices and equipment are in good working order and if there are visible safety precautions, such as handrails in the hallways.

After the disastrous spread of COVID through nursing homes during the early months of the pandemic, most are much better appointed to take care of residents now, and regulations that filled these facilities with contagion have been changed. Still, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How often are employees tested for the virus?
  • What is the protocol and availability of PPE?
  • Are temperatures of staff and residents checked daily?
  • What procedures are in place to control infection spread throughout the facility?
  • Does the staff facilitate laptop, tablet, and iPhone users to counteract patient isolation?
  • Are telehealth services available for non-emergency medical consults?

Essential Preliminary Steps Our Estate Planning Attorneys Can Help You Take

The first steps you have to take are those our skilled estate planning attorneys can help you with. By the time your parent or other relative is in need of a nursing home, it is imperative that you have the ability to take over all financial and medical responsibilities if this becomes necessary. We will assist you in making sure that your loved one:

  • Has a will to designate beneficiaries and an executor, and to detail wishes concerning a funeral, interment, or cremation
  • Has the necessary trusts to protect assets from excessive taxation, creditors, and from loss of government benefits, like Medicaid
  • A power of attorney to designate the person who will make legal and financial decisions if she or he is unable to do so
  • A health care proxy to assign a trusted person to make medical decisions on his or her behalf
  • A living will so that the individual’s wishes relative to end-of-life decisions, including organ donation, are clear

If you haven’t yet taken these critical steps to protect your loved one and yourself from ambiguities regarding actions that may result in physical pain or emotional angst in your family, our skilled, compassionate attorneys can assist you. We have the experience to draft and review the necessary documents so that they will cover all the bases and be legally binding. These signed documents will provide you with the tools you need to protect your relative as you help her or his transition to a new lifestyle. Contact our office today to speak with one of our attorneys.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.