The answer to this question really depends on the context. This does not address how to keep your parents out of the nursing home, but rather how to make sure they are safe within the nursing home. First of all, most nursing homes take great care of their patients and make sure that every need is taken care of. However, do not forget that a nursing home makes money by keeping patients in the home. That means sometimes you will find a nursing home that is willing to sacrifice the care of its patients, even discouraging discharge when it is appropriate.
There are a lot of laws directed at protecting the elderly. Most divorce attorneys or family law attorneys are familiar enough with these laws to help you protect those who have cared for you most of your life. Of course, it is important to look at a lot of homes and find one that seems to be the right fit. But really, I want to focus on the legal aspect of protecting your family.
First, consider having a power of attorney done BEFORE you put your parents in the home. In case your beloved parent becomes incapacitated, you want to be able to make the decisions for that parent and protect them from the intervention of someone who might not know what is the best interest of your parent. Additionally, it will allow the agent to manage the property of your parents and make sure that everything is in order.
Second, execute a healthcare directive. This will give your parent the opportunity to decide for him/herself who should make medical decisions in the event he/she cannot. Additionally, it will allow your parent to put in writing whether or not he/she wants to use life-prolonging measures. The healthcare directive can prevent family feuds when several loved ones each believe they know what is best for the parent.
Third, execute a HIPAA release so that your parent can designate who will have access to otherwise confidential documents. The Health Care Portability and Accountability Act works as a protection to healthcare privacy. However, it can also be a huge burden to someone just trying to help a parent who is not in shape to make phone calls and investigate health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid coverage.
Last, your parent may want to consider having a Will. Something like 55% of adults do not have a Will. The problem with not having a Will is that the court will have to get involved (even more so than when there is a will). This will often deplete much of the hard-earned resources the parent had hoped to pass to loved ones.