In light of recent negative stories about a local nursing home, it is not surprising that families are worried about the care their loved one will receive if they are placed in a long-term care facility. With every right, families are concerned whether staff is attending to their needs and safety properly and treating their loved one with respect and dignity.
The decision to place your parent or family member in a long-term care facility can be difficult. Maybe you had more control when they were at home or you felt you were honoring their wishes when they were at home. So what can you do to monitor their care and safety now that they are in a facility?
Be proactive in speaking with nursing home staff to ensure your loved one has a well-developed care plan. Speak to staff in different departments who interact with your loved one, including those who provide care. Meet with other families of residents in the facility so you can provide support and be each other's eyes and ears to look out for family. Find out if the facility has a Family Council. In these groups, family members can come together and share the concerns they may be having about their loved ones and the facility.
Pay attention to inspection reports, a yearly requirement in all facilities. You can ask the facility to view past inspection reports or you can also access them online by going to Nursing Home Compare on Medicare.gov. Keep in mind, these reports may not be fully accurate or up-to-date as facility operations can change over time – sometimes a great deal – and not yet be reflected in the reporting displayed online. For instance, ownership, management, or staffing could have changed significantly since the last report. Also ask about infection control policies and practices and keep an eye on follow-through – like paying attention to whether staff washes their hands before attending to residents.
When looking out for the best interests of a loved one, there is no substitute for visiting them. The number one thing to do is to visit as many times, and at different times, as possible. This is your most accurate insight into the care residents are receiving in the facility.
As an additional option, GolderCare provides patient advocacy services. Our trained staff can regularly visit your loved one to help monitor things for you and to provide you and the rest of your family some additional peace of mind.
It’s important for residents and families to know their rights.
Nursing homes must meet regulations; those include honoring resident rights, treating each resident with respect, dignity and care in an environment that promotes their quality of life and recognizes each resident’s individuality. Should an issue arise, the first step is normally to contact the nursing home in an effort to resolve the issue.
If that doesn’t work, you might try making a formal grievance as a second step. Nursing homes are required to have an official grievance procedure, and residents (or their advocates if a resident isn’t able to) should be made aware of that procedure. Your complaint and their response should each be put in writing.
If a response isn’t received, isn’t sufficient or the problem still isn’t resolved, residents or their loved ones may wish to contact their state ombudsman program as a third step. The Older Americans Act requires that every state has an ombudsman program, and they act as advocates for residents in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living.
While the best nursing homes will already be looking out for residents, it’s an involved job and issues can still arise in even the best of facilities. Being involved and advocating for your loved one is the best preventive measure you can have.
If you need coaching or help in advocating for your loved-one’s care, or advice on what to expect from a long-term care facility, GolderCare is specifically designed and dedicated to providing those services. We advocate for seniors, the disabled and those that care for them. And you are welcome to contact us at any step along the way.
While we know nursing home placement can be a difficult decision, it should not be something that defines a family negatively or create excess worry. Making these decisions for your loved one and putting their care needs first is showing that you care for them. Having help along the way from independent organizations with specialized expertise in this area can add extra peace of mind at a difficult time. When you need it, the team at GolderCare is available advocate for you and those you care about.