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Going Into a Nursing Home? Plan Your Estate First

Last week, there was some shocking news out of an independent living facility in California.

The story really drives home the importance of having a proper health care directive. It also raises some important concerns involving the rights of patients in elder care and nursing home facilities. As a result, it's imperative upon anyone entering a nursing home to have their proper estate planning documents laid out and drafted.

In the California case, a woman died at an independent living facility after a woman (who identified herself as a nurse) declined to perform CPR when a 911 dispatcher asked her to, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The woman as a resident at an independent living facility which was attached to a nursing home. That difference was key in the woman's denial of care. Nursing homes have a higher standard of care than an apartment facility for the elderly.

The incident leads many to ask: What are a patient's rights in a nursing home?

Nursing home patients have more protections under the law than those who live in independent care facilities. But that doesn't mean that a person entering an independent care facility shouldn't have their health care directive planned out.

Here are some rights and protections afforded to nursing home residents in New York:

  • Respect, dignity and overall well-being.
  • Proper medical care.
  • Privacy.
  • Services and fees.
  • Informed consent on medical procedures and care.
  • Financial independence.

With regard to financial independence, it's very important to know that a nursing home patient is never obligated to give the nursing home financial power of attorney.

And with health care decisions, a properly drafted health care directive would help the facility know with certainty whether or not the patient wanted CPR or whether the patient had a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.

These are important decisions. That's what estate planning is all about -- taking charge of your important life decisions. Don't leave these decisions in the hands of a stranger.

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