It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality of things—personal items often get lost or even stolen in nursing homes. Things go missing over the course of care: clothing items can be misplaced when staff inadvertently supply them to the wrong patient or when patients with dementia-related issues take clothing or personal items from other patients. But there are ways to avoid most of these issues and guard against this particular problem when making the difficult decision to place a family member in a nursing home.

Most nursing homes require seniors and/or their family members to sign statements that affirm the facility isn’t responsible for missing items. Even if this type of agreement is signed, however, the facility is generally responsible for items that staff may lose or destroy. Such items include glasses that are dropped and broken, dentures that are damaged, and hearing aids and similar devices that are misplaced. The nursing home may also be responsible for clothing ruined in the laundry, so whenever possible it is best for family and friends to care for their loved one’s clothing.

Whether the stay is intended to be long-term or short-term, seniors should be encouraged to bring personal items, though avoiding items like computers, cell phones and tablets makes the most sense because these facilities typically will not cover them in the case of theft or damage. While these care facilities are required to provide the essentials like blankets, sheets, pillows and towels, if a senior wishes to bring their own, this is permissible.

What family members often forget to do is mark the belongings of their senior. Many are hesitant to permanently mark clothing and other items, but names can be written discreetly on the tag or on the back or bottom of any non-clothing items. Doing this in advance will prevent many frustration as your senior settles in to his or her new surroundings.

However, you may consider marking clothing in more visible ways so that such items can never be construed as belonging to someone else. This is something a family member can do for their senior, but because of laws governing patient confidentiality, staff members are never allowed to do this for the family or the patient. Remembering this will help you to manage your expectations of facility staff because ultimately, they are there to protect your senior and their privacy.

Ultimately, it is best to limit the items a senior brings to a nursing home. There is usually minimal space for storage and everything will need to be moved if a room change occurs. If your senior is sent to the hospital for any particular reason, all of their belongings will be boxed up and stored – or the nursing home might ask a family member to pick them up so that they don’t become misplaced or stolen.