It’s important to understand that not all long-term care facilities are created equally. The Ramada Inn and the Ritz Carlton are both hotel chains, but there are significant differences in the amenities they offer and the prices they charge.
Room comfort, quality of food, and the number of qualified, trained, and fairly compensated staff members can make a huge difference in the level of care your loved one receives in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility. However, no matter how much you pay for care, it’s important to understand that no facility can provide flawless 24-hour-a-day, one-on-one attention.
When people are aged, disabled, chronically ill, or living with cognitive impairments, the demands on staff are sometimes unpredictable, and they can quickly become overwhelming. Oversights happen, and mistakes can be made. And sometimes, even though the staff is doing everything right, bad things will happen. As the aging process continues, older people become more vulnerable to falls, illness, and death.
Understand the work that administrators, supervisors, nurses, and aids do is tremendously demanding and often thankless. Take the time to get to know them. Ask them about their lives, and tell them stories that will help them get to know who your loved one was before he/she became a resident in their facility. Let them know that you appreciate the care they provide and that you understand their job is not easy.
At the same time, it is important to understand that the elderly and the very ill are extremely vulnerable. They cannot advocate for themselves, so it will be up to you to visit often and make sure that they are getting adequate care.
If you live at a distance and can’t often visit, hire someone to check in on them and ensure they are getting appropriate care. You can Google ElderCareLocator.com to find a list of people who provide the type of service you need. (Consider a geriatric care manager.)
Here’s a check list of some things you will want to monitor:
- Has your loved one been bathed? Are his/her clothes and bedding clean?
- Do you see evidence of bedsores?
- When you turn on the call light, how long does it take for someone to respond?
- Does the staff call people by their names? Is the interaction between staff and residents friendly and compassionate, or does it seem rough and uncaring?
- Join them for lunch or dinner. How’s the food, the service, the appearance, and the behavior of the staff?
- Check out the bed. Is it lumpy? Do the controls work? How is the pillow?
- Do you sense that your loved one is getting appropriate social interaction? Medical attention? Physical therapy?
- Do you feel confident that your loved one is being treated with the respect and dignity he/she deserves?
- Are you confident that the staff is aware of and will follow your loved one’s wishes regarding end of life issues?
When you are visiting with the staff, be kind, be appreciative, be respectful. And then if something does go wrong, bring it to the attention of a person who has the authority to make it right. If the problem persists, go to that person’s supervisor. If it still doesn’t get resolved, contact the long-term care ombudsman in your area.
The Ombudsman Program is administered by the Administration on Aging. Every state has staff who advocate for resident’s rights, listen to complaints from residents and their families, and help resolve conflicts.
If you would like to receive a free PDF about how to pay for care in a long-term care facility, send me an email at Elaine@EKSanchez.com. Type “Pay for LTC” in the subject box, and I will get it to you right away.