Massachusetts Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Tips for Visiting an Elder Loved One with Dementia at Their Nursing Home

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Sun, Jan 26, 2020

P42.Sullivan.Dec2Research tells us that nearly every American family today has been touched by dementia, including its most common form of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia cuts across every social and economic demographic, and currently impacts millions of seniors and their loved ones. It is characterized by severe memory loss, diminished communication skills, and poor judgment. Each of these issues can make family relationships more complicated and challenging. We know that this can cause additional frustration at all times throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season and winter.  

No matter what memory issues your loved one is facing, there is no reason to avoid visiting an elder loved one with dementia at his or her nursing home. Know that seniors with dementia can still enjoy visits from family and friends in the moment, regardless of whether they will remember it later. The point is that spending quality time with them contributes to their well-being and offers you the opportunity to experience time with loved ones.

There are considerations, however, that you need to think about before visiting a loved one in a skilled facility. What are the hours for visiting? Are there restrictions to what you can bring? Are there triggers that can upset your loved one? Let us share several tips to consider when visiting.

First, plan ahead and coordinate with nursing home staff to not interrupt the elder person’s routine or activity time. Bring them thoughtful items, like flowers, pictures, familiar objects and even favorite foods, if the dietitian agrees. Introduce yourself to your loved one’s caregivers and announce your presence, “Hi Mom, it’s me, Mary.” If your loved one seems agitated, speak in soothing tones about the weather or other mundane topics to divert his or her attention and create rapport.

It can be helpful to pre-plan a list of things to talk about, as it is likely the elder adult won’t have much information to share. Introducing light activities can also keep the visit flowing smoothly. Consider taking them on a walk around the nursing home facility or sit on a bench in a garden, if the facility has one and it is safe for your loved one to go outside. Remember, some dementia patients are prone to wandering and they may need to remain in a safe environment.

Photo albums or Facebook pictures can stimulate conversation and spark memories. A visit is also an opportunity to gauge the elder loved one’s health and access potential warning signs of elder abuse. Unfortunately, seniors with dementia are particularly vulnerable to physical abuse, neglect, and theft because they are unlikely to remember or be believed. =

There is never a wrong time to visit loved ones in a skilled nursing facility. We know this article may raise more questions than it answers.

For more on nursing home, health care decision-making documents and planning for the future, attend one of our free Trust, Estate and Asset Protection Seminars.

Do not wait to schedule a meeting with our experienced long-term care team on any of the elder law questions you have. We are here for you to help you navigate this process.

Tags: assisted living, seniors, family, Skilled Care

Why Your Children and Grandchildren Should Have Healthcare Documents in Place

Posted by Dennis Sullivan & Associates on Fri, Aug 17, 2018



First, you may ask, what are the Healthcare Documents that you recommend?

At Dennis Sullivan & Associates we recommend to everyone over the age of 18 (clients, friends, and family members) have appointed people to make health care decisions, and to receive health care information.

This is especially crucial for those who have college students and young adults in their lives. Young adult children and grandchildren, often times headed away to college, need health care decision making documents in place. These documents include an Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information forms in place (HIPAA), and Living Will and Health Care Proxy.

An 18 Year Old Is An Adult!

Once you turn 18, you are legally an adult, and no one has any automatic right to any medical information. Medical professionals are obliged to withhold any and all medical information of yours from anyone who may be requesting information, unless you specifically grant them authority to release the information. Sometimes, young adults will let the doctor know that it is okay to share information with their parents or close relatives, but it may not come up when the young adult sees the doctor. If an 18 year old forgets or is unable to give their consent, medical professionals, by law, are required to withhold the information.


In the unfortunate event where a young adult is unable to give consent due to being unconscious or in a coma the only way for parents to gain this information is if their child has signed off on the Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information form (HIPAA). This allows a parent to get information from a college health center, and speak with the care team.

Health Care Proxy and Living Will

Terry Schiavo is the reason why the importance of a Living Will and Health Care Proxy gained national attention. A Living Will addresses end of life decisions including the permission/request to discontinue life support after an extended period if a person is in a persistent vegetative state. Terry Schiavo did not have a Living Will in place, and thus a decade long legal battle ensued between her husband and parents.


A Health Care Proxy designates an Agent that can make Health Care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make the decisions for yourself. Examples of this could include being unconscious, lacking capacity, or being placed in a medically induced coma. A Health Care Proxy/Living Will and is essential because it names agents to make health care decisions if you’re unable to make decisions on your own.

The Health Care Proxy and Living Will give authority to a person (or persons) of your choice to make decisions if you are unable to.

In short, a HIPAA document will allow for those of your choice to be privy to medical records and a Living Will and Health Care Proxy will appoint an agent to be your medical decision maker in the event that you are unable to do so.

If you would like to implement these essential documents, call our office to schedule a consultation. Many of the estate plans we review are death plans. They are designed to solve situations that occur at death, avoiding probate and distributing the estate. While all these objectives are important, there is much more that is needed. One of the most important parts of planning focuses on how documents work while you and your family are living. To learn more about necessary elements of an estate plan, attend a complimentary workshop.

Tags: HIPAA, Health Care, health care proxy, power of attorney, health, children, grandchildren, Skilled Care

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