When we caregivers must get help with caregiving and our loved ones enter assisted living or nursing homes, we worry. How will they be without our constant oversight? The change for me wasn't dramatic, when my first elder went into a nursing home, as it was my uncle and my parents were still in fairly good health. Between my parents and me, my uncle had many visitors daily and the home was nearby and known to be good, so we didn't worry too much.
However, after my dad's brain surgery left him with dementia and he joined my uncle at the nursing home, I became more aware of my responsibility. My mother was also failing more, and so I'd lost the support they had offered while caring for my uncle. I found myself spending even more time at the nursing home, and keeping an even closer eye on things.
I have to emphasize the point that I live in an area where nursing homes, while not perfect, are pretty good. Some are excellent. Yet, I still tell local people to check out care centers. Visit at different times of the day and night. Notice how people are treated - and that includes staff.
However your vigilance isn't done after your loved one moves into the center. This is not to say that you need to make an enemy of the staff by treating them as suspects in a crime, or being overly demanding. Making friends with the staff is much more likely to bring good results. Visiting often (or having lots of people to visit) is also a good insurance policy that your loved one is treated well.
But what do you do if you are not happy with what is going on? Generally, I suggest to people that they try to work out differences with staff members and/or the administration. But if even that doesn't work, you have a resource. This resource is your local ombudsman.
An ombudsman is the advocate for the residents of care homes, including nursing homes and assisted living centers. By going online to www.ltcombudsman.org, you can click on your state, or the state you are interested in, and see who that representative is. These are the people you turn to if you are having issues with a care center that you can't seem to work out yourself.
According to the site, "Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are trained to resolve problems. If you want, the ombudsman can assist you with complaints."
Ombudsmen also advocate for residents' rights and quality care. They educate consumers (many are active in the culture change movement to make care centers more resident centered and homelike) and provide information to the public.
I found www.ltcombudsman.org informative and easy to use. Sure, you can call your state human services people, but here at your fingertips is a great web site with information on any state, so if you are long-distance caregiving, you'll get names and numbers. The site also gives state human services numbers and other valuable information. It's one that should be listed as a resource in every caregiver's favorites list. It's good to have handy just in case you have a problem with a care center that you can't handle alone.
Published On: August 27, 2008