If a loved one is moving into a retirement community or nursing home, the transition will come with substantial downsizing. If the security of your loved one’s items is a consideration, this guide can help.

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Keeping Valuables Safe in Eldercare

Moving a loved one into a retirement community is emotionally and physically taxing. Not only do you need to move belongings out of the existing home, but also you’ll need to decide which belongings will go into the new home and which belongings should be kept in a storage unit. When it comes to working with valuables, it’s a tricky line to dance. Your relative will feel more at home surrounded by items of value, but there is also the risk that those valuables will disappear. Talk with your loved one, as well as other family members, to determine what valuables to send to the nursing home and which valuables to store securely in an off-site storage unit.

The Dilemma of Valuables in Nursing Homes

When loved ones move into nursing homes, you want them to keep their valuables so they can feel at home. However, it’s possible that those valuables could disappear (maliciously or not). One nurse shares a telling story with the Eldercare Team. “As a rank beginner in the field of eldercare I was excited to finally be turned loose to make my first independent home visit. It went well, I thought, until I returned to the office. At the door I was met by my supervisor. She informed me that she had just logged an official complaint from the client I had left not 20 minutes earlier: The client’s teeth were missing. The teeth were there before I arrived, and they were now missing. The conclusion was obvious.”

The teeth were eventually discovered wrapped in a napkin and shoved inside the patient’s slippers. It’s a common dilemma when it comes to valuables. Aging parents sometimes give away precious family heirlooms, they hide or lose their belongings, or they discover their items were stolen by the people who work in the facility. “Most nursing homes are careful about the integrity of the people that they hire, but occasionally someone dishonest can slip through the cracks,” writes Brent Kelley in FTE Haus. “Caregivers spend a lot of time with residents and have opportunities to take items.”

Which Valuables to Bring to Assisted Living Facilities

Recommendations are standard at most nursing homes. “Residents and families are encouraged to personalize their room with pictures, plants, mementos, and other items to make for a homey atmosphere. We discourage residents from keeping valuable items, such as expensive jewelry and large sums of money, in their rooms. The facility cannot take responsibility for such items. Some residents with varying degrees of dementia may not recognize the value of an item and may unintentionally discard or misplace it,” reads the policy at Petersen Health Care.

Too many belongings can make the space cluttered, which can become a safety hazard for your loved one. Not enough belongings can make the room feel spare and unwelcoming. A compromise, according to St. Joseph Nursing Home, is to keep a detailed inventory of each personal item brought into the nursing home. “Please check this routinely and possibly rotate belongings. If there are special personal items that your family members want, please make sure these items are clearly marked with their name.”

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When deciding what to bring, consider that the item might be lost. Send items to the nursing home that will help your loved one feel at home, but leave irreplaceable items in a secure place. If allowed, you can store valuables in a locked safe in the patient’s room or in the nursing home’s secure vault.

Which Valuables to Put in Storage

A safe deposit box is an ideal location for jewelry, papers, and other valuables that need to be stored in a secure location while your loved one is in the nursing home. “It is vital to talk to your attorney about the best way to do this before setting it up. Different states have different regulations,” Brent Kelley advises. “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.”

When you’re moving items out of your loved one’s home and into a self-storage unit, the Family Caregiver Alliance recommends keeping a notebook full of details about what’s important and what’s not. “Include to-do lists, a calendar/timeline, things you’re likely to forget, questions about the new residence, floor plans. Even anecdotes or historical notes about possessions, or offhand remarks like ‘Oh, Aunt Judy would love this tea set.’ Although the notebook may not be particularly orderly, at least you’ll know where to find the information.” This notebook will help you remember what’s in storage, and who gets the special belongings once you need to move them out of storage.

Whether it’s in a storage, a safety deposit box, or in your loved one’s new home, how you handle valuables during this process takes a lot of care. Try not to make decisions on your own; include other family members as much as possible so there’s a team of people making these decisions. Ultimately, your loved one will feel secure knowing that the team is resolute in taking care of all the details. 

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