No one wants to think about being incapacitated to the point that they require full-fledged nursing care. To be honest it’s a depressing thought. But it does happen. With increasingly shortened lengths of stay in the hospital, it seems odds are pretty good that many of us will experience a nursing home stay in our lifetime. The ideal is to have “someone” on your side (family, friends and sometimes a professional advocate) should this happen.
We see many family members who present many complaints about their experience. First, I applaud them for being their loved one’s “voice” when it comes to issues such as hygiene, hair and nail care, timeliness of getting call lights responded to and a litany of other things. Nursing homes are guided by burden of regulation and sometimes care is delivered with such focus on compliance with this regulation, the personal needs of the resident sometimes is lost. Without loving oversight of their family, they may have a very different experience.
One needs to choose their battles and once the real issues are decided, take those issues to the “right” person to get them rectified. This “right” person may be different depending on the issue and the facility. A good place to start is with the Director of Nursing or the Social Worker. Often times the resident and/or family are fearful to speak up in fear of retaliation that the care may even get worse. To be honest, that rarely is the result of speaking up; however, if problems cannot be addressed and resolved, a third party advocate may need to be consulted. There is the Ombudsman, a representative from the State to talk to concerning the residents’ rights. There are also private Care Advocates, such as at GolderCare Solutions.
Having a professional Care Advocate involved is a win: win for the resident/family and the facility. Facilities do not want to provide bad care, make mistakes and have disgruntled residents and family members. The involvement of a Care Advocate can often identify and facilitate a remedy to mistakes/care issues before they get out of hand and lead to more problems for all parties. One obvious example of this is the case of medication errors. Medication errors happen. We know this to be true. Having a knowledgeable family member or private Care Advocate involved in the total care plan, including medication regime, errors are more likely to be identified immediately, thus resolved without consequences. No one wants to hear this, but people do die from medication errors.
Having worked in the field of geriatrics for now (I hate to admit this) thirty years, I have heard it all. It wasn’t until my own mom was is a care facility that I learned first-hand what it means to advocate for a loved one. She spent just over three years in a nursing facility in rural northern Iowa. There were good caregivers and not so good caregivers. The constant was the daily visits by our family and friends. We happen to know medicine and were able to advocate for her daily. Was it perfect? No. Did she have someone looking out for her interest, especially when the stakes were high (such as medication oversight/labs/waiting time for call lights) when she needed it? Yes. In the end, we believe the good far outweighed the bad. She died in that facility a little over two years ago. It was the loving gentle care that was rendered by the staff those last few hours on this earth that made me realize how important it was to stick with it, work through the ups and downs. It made all the difference.