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Long-Term Care

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Long Term Care Facilities
By Michael Plontz

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 facilities.

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.

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