It is often a difficult decision for family members to admit a loved
one into a long-term care facility. It is equally difficult to learn there
is a problem with the facility and/or staff after you thought your loved
one was safe and secure.
Many times a caregiver will feel guilty when their loved one has entered a
long-term care facility. It is a very complex and emotional emotion issue
for many caregivers to face. Having made the decision that long-term care
is the best option, it is important to remember that your caregiving role
does not stop once your loved one is in the home. Your job is not to sit
on the sidelines but to be an advocate and continue as a vital part of
your loved oneís health care team.
It is essential for you to become a very familiar face to the management
and staff of the facility. Visit your loved one often and try to have
others visit as well. Family members, friends, volunteers, a pastor,
neighbors, etc. should be prepared to visit on the days you cannot be
there. While you are visiting, observe your loved-oneís physical
condition and mental outlook. Discuss anything you notice or are concerned
about with a member of the professional staff. Your observations and
concerns will help even the best professional staff members be more aware
of your loved oneís individual needs and state of health. Talk to other
residents, their visitors and to the staff, asking questions and listening
carefully to the answers. If possible, meet with members of the family
council at the nursing home.
Should your concerns not be addressed when they are reported to the staff
or you suspect inadequate care is being received by your loved one,
youíll want to become familiar with the office of the State Long-term
Care Ombudsman. The ombudsmanís office is where you press any complaint
about the care in your nursing home and is a significant part of the
nursing home system.
Federal law requires each State Agency on Aging to maintain an Office of
the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. These offices provide help and information
to older Americans, their families and friends regarding long-term care
Ombudsmen visit nursing homes on a regular basis, and they have an
insiderís knowledge of what goes on in facilities in their communities.
In addition, they receive and investigate complaints made by or on behalf
of nursing home residents and work to resolve the problems.
For information on the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: Call your State
Office of Aging (look in the blue pages of your phone book) or call the
Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116
If they are unable to resolve problems or if they find serious violations
of standards in the facility, ombudsmen refer complaints to State Health
Departments for the appropriate action.
While most complaints are resolved satisfactorily, being your loved
oneís advocate requires perception, patience, persistence and people
skills. Trust your instincts and respond appropriately to whatever the
situation might be.