Advocating for Your Parent’s Needs in a Nursing Home

Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes provide a valuable service. They also promise that your family will receive fair treatment and a safe living place. Yet, there are many instances in which this may not occur.

For those who are older, simple oversights, like something left on the floor or a medication that staff failed to administer, can lead to harmful or even fatal outcomes. It can damage their quality of life and reduce the length of their life.

We do not say this to scare you but to motivate you. Work as closely as you can to advocate for your parent’s needs when they are in a nursing home. They often cannot or will not do that alone. While you are not always there and can only do so much, knowing how to effectively support your parents may be easier.

If you believe a nursing home neglected or abused your parent, never hesitate to consult a nursing home attorney.

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Visit As Often As Possible

The most important step you can take is to visit your parents frequently. Doing so helps them to know they can trust you. It also helps the nursing home to know you will make sure your parents are okay. Say hello to the nurses. Make sure you know the names of care providers.

Then, visit at different times. Try to alternate the time of the day you visit. This may have some limitations due to the care your family member receives. However, the more frequently you visit at varying times, the more the nursing home staff knows not to put your family member at risk. You will be there. You will notice. You will then take action.

Know the Staff and Roommates

Know the Staff and RoommatesAlways act friendly. When you create a relationship with the nurses and other staff, including a friendly greeting or short conversation, you pay them an important acknowledgement. You not only are present, but you also indicate you know they were working.

Developing a relationship with staff should not lead you to overly trust your family member is safe. However, by investing the time in talking to the staff, you can better learn how they care for your parents. You can also get insight into concerns before they spiral out of control. Keep an open line of communication.

Know the Management Team

Going beyond the nurse who directly visits your family member is a good idea. Get to know the managers. Find out who provides physical therapy to your family member. Get to know the onsite doctors and medication providers.

You also want to ensure you know who is responsible for activities, medical needs, billing, and other tasks. Being well-versed in the location and the services provided makes it easier to handle concerns if they arise.

Know the Care Plan

When a person enters a nursing home, the care plan goes into effect. This starts with a risk assessment to determine if a person is a fall risk or a risk of otherwise hurting themselves.

Then, a care plan outlines the details, including decisions related to:

  • Getting up on their own
  • Toileting needs
  • Bathing needs
  • Support with medication
  • Support for medical care
  • Guidance for meals
  • Special food limitations
  • Care plans for doctors

You can learn this care plan with the help of a medical provider, nursing staff, and others. Make sure you know what to expect from their services. This should include medical help and how it supports your family member’s social needs, privacy needs, and overall well-being.

Ensure you understand any changes your parents make to those care plans. If your parents are not cognitively healthy, they cannot make decisions for themselves. Assigning someone as the primary care provider should be a component of the care plan. That may be a person with a power of attorney. The key here is to know when changes happen, why, and how they must be approved.

Know the Location

When visiting the nursing home, avoid simply sitting in your parent’s room. Take them on a walk around the unit. Explore the outdoors. Get to know the area and all of the services provided to them based on their medical limitations and needs.

By knowing the area well, you also understand the layout, how a person gets meals, what steps they take to engage in a social environment, and how the location operates.

Along these walks, make sure you spot concerns:

  • Clutter on the floor
  • Resident call buttons not being answered
  • How care providers and staff speak to other residents
  • Broken equipment or fixtures
  • Lack of lighting
  • Limited care outdoors to make it safe
  • The type of care a person receives

The more you walk around and observe, the easier it becomes to spot potential problems. If you encounter an issue, consider documenting it with a photo or by creating a detailed log. Additionally, ensure you promptly notify the nursing home staff of any risks that can potentially cause harm to residents or staff members.

Don’t Aim to be Liked

While being friendly is important, you are not there to be friends with the staff or to talk about what you did that weekend. Instead, make sure they understand who you are. You or your parents pay them for a very specific service. Make sure they know your expectations. Ask questions when there are concerns.

Being too friendly can backfire. You want to make sure they fully understand that you are paying attention. For example, “Yesterday, I spoke with you about my mom’s IV bleeding, but it seems it hasn’t been tended to since then. Why is that?”

Be specific, non-judgmental, and clear. You want to ensure that people are treating you and your parent fairly, and that you are treating them with respect as well.

Appoint One Person in the Family as the Individual Who Will Gather Information

Visiting the parent in nursing homeEvery family member that can should visit. However, do not allow every family member to decide for or influence your parents’ care. If you are the point of contact, ensure the location knows fully who can and cannot change care plans and who can make decisions for the resident.

You do not want there to be an excuse. For example, you may ask the nurse to call you with a care update at least once weekly.

If you visited and did not receive that update, you may wish to address this. If they say, “Oh, your sister was here yesterday, so I talked to her…” that is not good enough. It can expose your family members to mistakes and a lack of communication, even if they talk to someone else.

Consider the Use of Video Technology

Though many rules and limited rights are clearly defined in this area, if the nursing home or the law allows you to use video cameras within your family member’s room, do so.

You do not need to hide them. You can tell them about their presence. Ensure they always keep your family members in full view.

Cameras do not need to have live monitoring. They should backup video on a device or in the cloud, though. This allows you to go back to find out what happened if something occurs.

For example, you can discover what occurs if your family member falls. Did they get out of bed without help and without asking? That may not be the nursing home’s fault. Did they fall out of bed because of how the caretaker changed the sheets? That is very different.

Pay Attention to Positioning

One of the most common factors that lead to a patient’s decline is the development of bedsores. If your family member can get up and move around, encourage that whenever it is safe.

If they cannot, pay close attention to positioning.

  • Are they being moved from the bed to a chair or wheelchair?
  • Is anyone helping them turn from side to side if they cannot do so alone?
  • Are they using air mattresses or other technology to minimize skin damage and degradation?
  • Are they performing skin checks daily?
  • What are they doing to treat them?
  • How often is a bedridden person repositioned? Who does it?

Because bed sores pose a life-threatening risk, so closely monitor for them.

As an advocate for your family members, ensure they receive clean sheets and clothing daily and proper hygiene support. These measures can significantly reduce the risk of bed sores and improve your family member’s overall health, even if only incrementally.

By staying vigilant and advocating for their needs, you play a vital role in safeguarding their well-being amidst the challenges of aging.

Listen to Your Parents

Parents often do not want to discuss what went wrong during their day. They want to talk to you or may just want some company. Yet, it is up to you to know what’s happening. This can be hard in situations where a parent develops dementia or other conditions that make communicating hard to do.

Yet, try to listen to what they are saying in any way they are communicating:

  • Did they mention an arm or leg hurting? Take a look. Find out what’s occurring.
  • Did they mention they were hungry because they did not eat lunch? Find out why.
  • Listen to your family member talk to the staff. Are they afraid? Are they anxious when someone comes into the room? Do they feel like someone will yell at them?
  • Call your parents and use video chat frequently. Doing this allows you to monitor their well-being and allows them to communicate about their needs more readily.
  • Pay attention to their call light. Do they hit it when they need help? Do they just avoid calling the nurse? Find out why that is.

Getting to know your parents as they age involves delving into the complexity of their needs, goals, and overall well-being.

This includes understanding their health conditions, how their mental health may evolve, and recognizing changes in mood or communication patterns that can signal pain, depression, or even hope.

By gaining insights into these aspects of their lives, you can better support them and advocate for their needs as they navigate the challenges of aging.

Know When to Contact a Nursing Home Attorney

When to seek the legal helpBeing an advocate for your parents means knowing when to get help. The Director of Nursing and onsite ombudsman are two core people to speak to when there are concerns. Yet no one will work as hard for you and your parent as a nursing home lawyer you select and hire who has no ties to the establishment.

There are numerous instances when you should contact an attorney. Here are some examples:

  • You do not receive notifications about injuries or health changes.
  • You discover bruises or other injuries that have no explanation.
  • You observe signs that indicate your family member has experienced abuse in any way.
  • There is some evidence that someone has lied to you.
  • The conditions are poor.
  • Your family member’s health is deteriorating because of the care they are receiving.

If you’re an adult child, you may not always know whether there’s a problem or if everything is all right in your parent’s care. However, as their advocate, remain vigilant and ready to take action when needed.

Whether it’s recognizing signs of abuse or neglect in a nursing home or addressing concerns about their well-being at home, proactive involvement ensures your parents receive the care and support they deserve.

Talk to a Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer Today

Often, a personal injury attorney will offer you hands-on assistance and guidance during a free consultation session. This presents a valuable opportunity to openly discuss your concerns without incurring any cost or risk.

The sooner you have someone advocating for your parent and supporting you, the better. Educate yourself about your legal rights and responsibilities. Provide yourself and your family peace of mind for their well-being and overall quality of life.