How Does a Nursing Home Really Work?

Lost-1190422“When your loved one is admitted to a nursing facility, you are at their mercy. There is a significant imbalance of power in many ways.  As a result, many families may find themselves feeling completely lost.”

Few of us have navigated the confusing rules and programs associated with aging in the U.S., until circumstances force us to.

Forbes’ recent article, “How Nursing Homes Can Destroy Families,” says that we depend on the people with the most experience to help us through this. However, it does not always work out for the best. In that case, as the situation for a loved one continues to deteriorate and as family members try to address mounting issues, it can take a toll on relationships. Let’s look at some of the factors:

Poor Organization. See if there’s a clear chain of command at the nursing home and find out who you should contact with your questions. Get one person to work with in order to avoid confusion. There may be a high turnover rate among employees, so try to maintain contact with the highest-level staff member and secure a secondary contact.

Misinformation. In workplaces with high turnover, some may be unsure of their own roles. Whether the staff members are new, poorly trained, or even disinterested in their positions, this is problematic because you’re relying on these employees for critical information. To avoid this, try to discuss things with one person and document every interaction. You may consider making email your primary mode of contact, so you have a written record of everything that’s been said. That record may be valuable, if there’s an issue.

Staffing Problems. Nursing homes struggle to keep employees, especially the good ones. You may quickly see how much this impacts the quality of care at many different levels, for your loved one. This could present itself in poorly maintained rooms or poorly maintained records. An understaffed senior residence can be a dangerous place. However, there may be little that you can do. This isn’t an uncommon issue and seniors could be left being neglected. Make the effort to be friendly with the staff and show them you’re invested. It will send the message that you’re kind but persistent.

Family Fighting. Families can battle over the care plan or squabble over assets, and tempers may flare. The nursing home setting may worsen this dynamic. In addition to the frustration with any gaps in care, family members may find themselves arguing about all sorts of issues.

Medical Malpractice. In some instances, a nursing home resident can be physically or mentally harmed by negligent medical care.

Prepare in advance and know that this is going to be a stressful chapter in your family’s history. Any existing issues may easily worsen in these circumstances, so try to give each other the benefit of the doubt. If necessary, speak with an elder law attorney, who can help advocate for your loved one and help your family navigate through these tough times.

Reference: Forbes (April 28, 2018) “How Nursing Homes Can Destroy Families”