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Placing a loved one in long-term care? Be sure to read the fine print

Putting a loved one in long-term care can be a tough decision. Going through the process of admitting them can be even tougher

Eric Carlson is a directing attorney with Justice in Aging, an elder-advocacy organization. He says admission packages can contain upwards of 75 pages.

"People's inclination is to not just read all these things," he said. "And just to jump to the bottom and sign, but that's an inclination that should be resisted."

That’s because these documents are binding contracts. So families should read them carefully.

"Who's agreeing to pay for it? Is it the resident or other people? As well, the level of service that's promised to them:  What items may or may not be charged separately? The conditions for eviction," said Carlson.

Carlson, who worked with Justice in Aging to produce the guide " 25 Common Nursing Home Problems and How to Resolve Them," says families should also watch out for arbitration agreements.

"An arbitration agreement commits the parties to the agreement to send any future disputes to private arbitration, rather than to determination in a state or federal court," Carlson said.

Residents and family members should get copies ahead of time and look through them and understand the terms of the admission agreement. If you can consult with an attorney, that helps — but even if you can't, these terms can be understood. 

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.