You have chosen a nursing home for your loved one and now you want to make sure that they receive proper care during their stay. What can you do? Families of nursing home residents can become zealous advocates for the resident to try to ensure proper treatment is received. The role of an advocate for a nursing home patient is unfortunately becoming ever more prevalent and necessary in our society. Many residents of nursing homes are unable to communicate their needs effectively on their own so their family members must ensure that proper care is being provided. However, being an elder advocate does not come with an instruction manual and it is often a scary and overwhelming proposition.
Although this list is not inclusive, below are a few suggestions to try to institute when advocating for a nursing home resident.
- VISIT OFTEN AND UNANNOUNCED: Visiting the nursing home at different hours and on different days is an excellent way to ensure that the staff does not know you have a set schedule for visitation. If staff cannot anticipate when you will be visiting, they cannot clean and dress your loved one in anticipation of your visit. Also, ask family and friends to drop in to visit your loved one and report back any instances of concern.
- GET TO KNOW THE STAFF: Getting to know the staff caring for your loved one is extremely important. You especially want to know what CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants) typically care for him/her. CNA’s are the individuals who generally provide all of the hands on care such as bathing, changing and dressing your loved one.
- BE VOCAL: Being vocal does not mean that you have to scream and yell. However, you do need to make your voice heard. Communication is key. You need to be able to effectively communicate with the staff regarding any concerns or complaints you may have. You can do this is a respectful manner. However, if your concerns and complaints are not properly addressed then you should report such instances to the state regulatory agency in charge of nursing homes.
- TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT: Always pay attention to your gut instinct. If something is telling you that your loved one is being abused or neglected then he/she very well may be. If you are unable to substantiate your fears, you can ask for a state investigation into the matter.
- TELL THE STAFF ABOUT YOUR LOVED ONE: Telling the staff about your loved one is very important. This may help the staff to form a connection with the resident. You tell the staff about his/her background, likes, dislikes, spiritual and social needs, etc.
- KEEP A DIARY: Keeping a diary / journal will help you to recall specific dates, times and details if you have concerns regarding the care of a resident. It is very difficult to recall specifics, especially if the individual has resided at the nursing home for an extended period of time. You can also use the diary if you need to report any problems or concerns to staff, administrators and/or the state.
Becoming an advocate for a nursing home resident is no small feat. Often the tables are turned and children are now responsible to ensure the health and safety of their parents. As difficult as it may be, it is necessary. It is important to follow your instincts and do the best you can to ensure your loved one is receiving the care and treatment they are entitled to.