It's come time for your aging parent or loved one to move into a facility where he or she will receive round-the-clock nursing care. One step you need to take is ensuring his or her valuables are secured.
Why? There are three main threats to a elderly nursing home resident's valuables.
- Giving it away. Often older people in nursing homes have dementia or are unable to think critically. They may give away family heirlooms or precious jewelry to caregivers or other residents. In other cases they may simply misplace their items.
- Stolen by other residents. This may not be malicious; again, the elderly in many nursing care situations aren't fully culpable for their actions. A person suffering from dementia may not understand that an item does not belong to him or her.
- Stolen by caregivers. Most nursing homes are careful about the integrity of the people that they hire, but occasionally someone dishonest can slip through the cracks. Caregivers spend a lot of time with residents and have opportunities to take items.
Each nursing home should have a policy in place for dealing with missing or stolen items. Whether such a policy is recommended or required depends on the state. Here are some things you can do to prevent items from going missing or recover missing items from your parent or loved one:
Make a List of All Personal Items
Many nursing home facilities insist on or strongly encourage you to make a detailed inventory of each personal item that your loved one brings to the nursing home. You can even find software apps that can help you do this type of inventory, including photos of each item.
This list is kept on file and can be used if the resident or a family member reports a loss. Sometimes the resident has simply misplaced their ring or necklace and it is in a common room or lost-and-found area. Or, if the resident has "given away" the item, it can be reclaimed from whomever received.
Get a Safe Deposit Box
Putting your parent's important jewelry, papers and other valuables in a safe deposit box is a good solution to making sure that items are safely kept together in one place.
It is vital to talk to your attorney about the best way to do this before setting it up. Different states have different regulations. In some areas it will be best to put it in both your parent's and your name; in others it might be best to put it in your name only or even in an attorney's or trustee's name.
Some states also allow you to name a beneficiary or list of people who can have access to the safe deposit box if the main owner dies. You'll need to know exactly what your rights are and what is in your parent's best interests, so consult with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Offer a Reward if Property Goes Missing
It may seem like overkill, but a truly important item may be returned if there is a "no questions asked" reward offered.
The National Crime Prevention Council advises putting up flyers around the property with information about the missing item. This can be coupled with a place to leave the item or a phone number to call with a tip. If a reward is to be offered, it should also explain how that is to be claimed.
Hopefully your parent or loved one will not need to worry about loss of personal items. But in a community environment, no matter how friendly, there can be issues. Talk to staff members at a nursing home like Regina Nursing Center if you have any questions about recommended personal property practices.