How can you ensure that your loved ones (let’s call them parents for the sake of this article) are getting the best possible care at a nursing home or assisted living facility? The first step is to pick the best institution you can afford, if you have a choice in the matter, but after that you can’t simply sit back and relax. It’s a fact that most nursing homes and assisted living facilities are understaffed, and even when they aren’t, you need to be sure the staff are doing everything they are supposed to do.
There are several things you can do to improve the service your parents receive:
Get involved with the institution on a regular basis. Going in person is best, but if you can’t manage that, keep up with frequent phone calls. Learn who is in charge of which services and who to call if there is a problem. Make sure you understand exactly what services will be provided, and talk to your parents regularly to find out if their needs are being met.
Naturally, the better your parents are functioning, the less you need to do, but no matter how capable they are, it’s still a good idea to help monitor the quality of their care. My father had severe short-term memory loss when he lived at an assisted living facility, so it was very important for me to be actively involved.
Get to know the staff on a first-name basis. The aides in assisted living and nursing homes work very hard for little pay, yet their attitudes can determine how satisfied your parents will be with their care. It was fortunate for me that my father always got along well with staff. In spite of everything, he kept his sense of humor, and went out of his way to be friendly.
Sometimes a resident is unhappy and difficult, which makes the staff’s job harder. One woman I knew always complained about everything and was sarcastic to the aides who were trying to help her. They still tried, but the job of caregiving was made more difficult because of the way they were treated.
No matter what job they are doing, people like to be appreciated. When you take an interest in the staff, you acknowledge that the quality of your parents’ lives is important to you, and that you recognize the contributions staff are making in this regard. Very often a small token of appreciation, like a box of candy at holidays, will go a long way in gaining staff support.
Finally, follow up to make sure promises are kept. I had a very difficult time getting my father’s laundry taken care of at his assisted living facility. Most residents put their laundry hampers outside their door on laundry day, and put the clean laundry away themselves when it was delivered. But my father was not able to keep track of his laundry at all. He didn’t know when it needed to be done, whether the clothes in his hamper were clean or dirty, or how to put the clean clothes away in his closet and dresser.
After talking to the director of the facility, she said she would ask the aides to pick up Dad’s laundry when he wasn’t in his room, and then put it away when they delivered it, again when he wasn’t in his room. But I had to follow up several times before this procedure was actually done on a regular basis.
By following up on requests, showing appreciation for staff, and getting involved in the day-to-day care of your parents, you can make a significant difference in the quality of their lives.