Sometimes a nursing home is inevitable

As an elderly person's health gradually deteriorates, they find it much harder to live in their own home. Assistance and care from family members can sometimes delay the transition to a nursing home, depending on the circumstances. However, once providing care becomes too much for the family, a nursing home becomes the only option.

13.02.2017 Lara Brunner 4 minutes

Twilight years in a nursing home: the very thought of it invokes fear among many people. For the person in need of care, admission to a nursing home turns life upside down. They need to get accustomed to a completely new environment and say goodbye to cherished habits and objects.

It's a step that also puts a mental strain on family members. Some torment themselves with feelings of guilt. It's therefore right and sensible to only consider the nursing home option if there is no prospect of care being provided by family members and if outpatient nursing opportunities such as Spitex and day-care centres have been exhausted.

Is admission to a nursing home justified?

Admission to a nursing home is inevitable if the person needing care is suffering from mental and physical problems that are gradually getting worse. The situation becomes untenable when the behaviour of the person in need of care endangers themselves or family members.

Reasons for admission to a nursing home can also include overload, health risks or excessive mental strain or physical effort among family carers. With difficult-to-manage tasks such as nursing and support, everyone reaches their limits at some point. Typical warning signs include exhaustion, a state of anxiety, frequent insomnia, low spirits, feelings of isolation and depression.

Talk about it

Invite all those involved in providing care and support to discuss the situation and the organisational aspects of admission to a nursing home. The person in need of care should ideally be involved in this conversation. Other important factors include an assessment of their state of health and the recommendations of the family doctor.

Choosing a nursing home

Once a decision has been taken, start searching for a nursing home that matches as far as possible the wishes of the person needing care and also meets your expectations. Register your relative with several possible institutions. Don't assume a space will be available in the nursing home of your choice. Many homes have a very long waiting list.

Enquire about local opportunities and circumstances on site. It's best to do this together with the person needing care. Show a willingness to compromise. Virtually no nursing home will completely meet individual requirements. You'll find helpful information, databases of addresses and additional links at

Admission to a nursing home requires preparation

Once you've found a suitable nursing home, you'll have an introductory discussion with the management. The person being admitted to the home should take part wherever possible. This will initially be about the nature and scope of care services as well as funding the stay in the home. The management of the home will set out in writing the needs and wishes of the person moving into the home in terms of assistance, care and support as well as the corresponding agreements. Depending on the institution and the state of health of the person in need of care, you should use this meeting to discuss the opportunities for active participation in the communal life of the home.

Find out whether and which furniture your family member can take with them into the home. Cancel their current rental agreement, insurance policies such as household contents and give the relevant contacts, companies, institutions as well as the health insurance organisation the change of address. Remember that when moving into a home in a different municipality the person needing care must de-register with the old municipality and register with the new one.

Living will & Power of attorney

Living will

Specify your wishes in good time with a living will. This will help doctors and family members take decisions in accordance with your wishes should you no longer be able to communicate. Consult with your doctor when writing your living will, and let members of your family know where the document is kept.

Power of attorney

Give a close relative or friend power of attorney to deal with your health insurance provider.

Who pays the care costs?

Funding long-term care comes from three main sources: health insurance contributions, social-security contributions and – where permitted by the financial status of the person in need of care – individual contributions.

Subject to certain conditions, your parents can apply for helplessness allowances, additional AHV benefits and, if necessary, social assistance.

The safest funding option for suitable healthcare provision in old age is adequate insurance cover. It's worth sorting this out early on.

Further information

Read more

Elder care at home for as long as possible
Older people want to stay in their own home for as long as possible. The rules of the game change when they need care.
February 13, 2017 3 minutes

Life in a nursing home: a new experience
It is not always easy to adjust to the unfamiliar environment of a nursing home. It will take time and the right attitude.
February 13, 2017 3 minutes


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