Monday, October 8, 2012

Care Facilities: When One Size Doesn't Fit All

Going Back to the Drawing Board

You’ve finally convinced your mom to move into a care facility near your home, only to discover that the facility isn’t working out.  After all that work of moving her from Stamford, Connecticut to Seattle—days of packing, organizing and letting go of family treasures—you and Mom have reluctantly agreed that this isn’t the right place. You’re both exhausted, and don’t know what to do next.

Thousands of Americans find themselves in similar situations. You’ve placed your loved one in the “wrong” facility—great on the outside, but absolutely not a fit on the inside. Despite positive references from medical providers and even other caregivers, you can easily make the common mistake of assuming that one size fits all. 

What to do? I recommend going back to the beginning. First, locate a facility that has respite care until you can locate the best possible place. Then, sit down and review all your loved one’s needs—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Wound management? Wheelchair bound? Incontinent?  Dementia?  Food disorder? Easily upset? Late riser? Religiously oriented? Depression?  At the end of life? Identify as many markers as you can that will help you find just the right place for long-term care.

Now, begin your grand tour of a few facilities you’ve selected that appear to fit your loved one’s needs.  You’ll certainly want to interview a broad spectrum of staff at each facility: administrators, nurses, kitchen help, and anyone else who provides direct service to residents.  Use your senses—sight, sound smell, touch—and your intuition to detect the level, quality and quantity of care. Visit the facility at different times of the day. What kind of activities do they have?  If it looks strictly custodial—just a place to park an older person—move on. That won’t work for you. Try to tell the difference between staff efficiency and warmth; just getting the job done versus being committed to the residents.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s wise to stick around and follow up for a few weeks to ensure that the care plan is actually being carried out. Don’t take “no” or “we’re too busy right now” for an answer. Let administrators and staff know that you’re part of the team, even if you can’t be there every day. Distance caregiving poses distinctive problems, but once you’ve done your homework and worked out any glitches, you can sit back and relax.

When Your Care Facility Fails to Care Enough

If you have serious complaints about the institution, and direct communication with the staff simply isn't working, don’t hesitate to contact an ombudsman. If a person faces immediate danger, such as abuse or neglect, including residents abusing each other, contact the police immediately. 

The Ombudsman Program today exists in all states under the authorization of the Older Americans Act, and steps in when communication with institutional staff has failed.  Ombusdmen advocate on behalf of long-term care residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities and similar adult care facilities. They work to resolve problems of individual residents, and to bring about changes at the local, state and national levels that will improve residents’ care and quality of life.

Ombudsmen can do much to improve the living conditions of the elderly and ensure that they receive proper care. With the help of prompt and detailed complaints, ombudsmen can do their jobs effectively.

For more information about the Ombudsman Program, be sure to read this helpful post from Senior Care Corner.

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