The 411 on Wait Lists

What are wait lists? How do they work? Why are they so confounding? This article explains why having the kind of help that you'll get from a Life Care Planning Law Firm is doubly important in a wait list situation.

Your elderly mother needs nursing home care. You choose a facility and submit an application only to discover that that she’s been put on a wait list. How can this be?

According to Franklin Drazen, a Certified Elder Law Attorney and founder of Drazen Law Group in Milford, Connecticut, it happens more than you might think. “In many cases, it’s not until the elder’s name is placed on the wait list that he or she will be considered for a bed in the nursing facility,” said Drazen.

The reality of the wait list means that it is difficult or impossible to know when your elderly loved one will actually be admitted to the nursing home. “It will depend on how many people are ahead of your loved one on the list and how quickly beds become available,” Drazen said.

If a person rises to the top of the wait list but doesn’t need nursing home care, what happens? It varies from state to state. In Connecticut, the person retains his or her position at the top of the wait list instead of being sent to the back of the line as is common in other states. “The nursing home will go down the list, offering a bed to each person until it’s finally taken,” Drazen noted. “When an opening occurs, it goes to the person at the front of the line who is ready for that level of care. It’s important to note that an elder doesn’t have to go to the nursing home when the call comes. The elder may not yet need that level of care or may not be willing to go. In those cases, the admissions personnel will typically ask families to call when the elder is ready.” 

Though many families wait to get help until an elderly loved one needs long-term care outside the home, working with a Life Care Planning Law Firm can be especially valuable to families who are trying to help an elderly loved one age at home. “We anticipate situations like these,” said Drazen. “If there’s any possibility that a client will need long-term care outside the home, our elder care coordinators are guiding families through the process of touring facilities, submitting applications, and getting on wait lists well in advance of the need for care.”

Completing the application before a loved one might transition to that care setting is especially vital in long-term care facilities that offer several levels of care. Let’s say you put your dad’s name in for an independent living apartment. His health is good when he completes the application. But then something happens—he’s diagnosed with a chronic illness—and now, instead of needing an independent living apartment, he needs to be in the assisted living portion of the facility. “When you go to the facility and tell them that your dad needs to be admitted now, they’ll look to see when he went on the wait list,” Drazen added. “If you were proactive and completed the application as soon as you knew he would eventually be transitioning to the independent living apartment, the facility would most likely have the assisted living room ready when he needed it.”

The best outcomes are always the result of a carefully thought out strategy.  Getting help at home, identifying the right care setting, deciding where to apply, and timing those applications can be tricky. No matter what, it’s always best to know what’s available long before elderly loved ones start to need help. Remember, the earlier you start planning and the earlier you involve a Life Care Planning Law Firm, the more options you will have, and the more affordable those options will be.