Monday, July 23, 2018

3 Tips for Safeguarding Your Loved One in a Nursing Home

This article was written and published by Nancy Valko on July 22, 2018

Nancy Valko
have had many relatives and friends who lived in nursing homes and, especially as a nurse, I am always saddened by how few of the other residents had any visitors, even family members. I have even heard relatives say they would just prefer to remember their relative “the way they were”.

This is not only tragic for the family member’s or friend’s psychological well-being but also potentially for their safety. Nursing home residents without visitors are at greater risk of neglect or even abuse. With sometimes inadequate staffing and/or high nurse and aide turnover, it is important that people in a nursing home have someone who knows them to look out for them.

Here are 3 tips that can help safeguard a friend or relative:

  • Get to know the staff and tell them about your friend or relative, especially likes or dislikes. Visit at different times or days in order to know the staff and when it is most convenient to talk with them. 
  • Notice “red flags” like poor personal hygiene, unexplained injuries, weight loss, emotional changes, environmental hazards etc. and know who to contact if you see a problem.
  • Especially if you are have health care power of attorney for your relative or friend, ask about care conferences so that you can attend them. Such conferences usually cover how the resident is doing in terms of activity, possible pain, eating, mobility, etc. It is also crucial to know what medications have been ordered and given, especially the PRN (as needed) ones. For example, you may notice a change such as sleepiness or fatigue that can be helped with a medication change.

By 2020, it is projected that the global population of human beings who are 65 and older will surpass those under 5 for the first time in human history. At the same time, families have fewer children, older adults are more likely to have never married or to be divorced and adult children often live far from their parents. This makes it harder for many older people who prefer to live independently in their own homes indefinitely without help.

According to the CDC, 1.4 million people are nursing home residents in the US and, as I wrote in last week’s blog “‘Rational’ Suicide and the ‘Elderly'”, those residents really
benefit from visitors as do all of us who volunteer to help the elderly!


Paul Anderson said...

Very helpful. That last tip about care conferences, especially. In the 7 years that I've been visiting my relative in LTC, there have been 5 or 6 occasions where he was described as "failing". The LTC staff were preparing me for his imminent demise. In each case, after I made inquiries it was discovered that he was actually just over-sedated from his meds. This sort of thing isn't checked often enough. Also, on two occasions it was discovered that the form indicating the level of intervention to be applied in an emergency did not accurately reflect his stated wishes. On one occasion it had even been deliberately changed behind his back by the physician because the physician thought the patient's choice was unwise.

Anonymous said...

Good article and advice.
Paul Anderson - I've worked in LTC and to some degree am working with such clients under a different facility until they have placement.
I have also had family and friends in LTC and have noticed exactly all you have described. It has been difficult as an employee to witness what I sense is a lack of knowledge or empathy when distributing the medications to our loved ones. God bless you as you advocate for your relative. We need more like you!

Unknown said...

This is eye opening indeed and very helpful. As a health care aide in Alberta who worked in home care for 2.5 years, I have personally felt that many of my patients were overmedicated. I now work privately for seniors and would rather see a patient with no medication rather than too much medication.
I also lost my own father less than two years ago. He died in hospital waiting to go to hospice, and never made it there. He had a "fall" in the middle of the night and no one called his family. Later that morning. they found him on their next rounds. Than they called us to let us know that he had passed. Incidently, they had added a new medication that same day at midnight. I am glad to know that my sisters and I are not alone in this struggle to see justice for our elders to be truly well cared for.

Unknown said...

What a pretentious, loathsome individual. What if someone had the power to decide he'd be better off not practicing medicine.