As seniors age, it will become inevitable that while they seek to age in place, the physical and mental limitations of many will necessitate them, for their own safety and protection, to live in a nursing home.
And while most of these facilities are run by well-meaning people, it is inevitable that there will be personality conflicts or other forms of problems at the nursing home. Some will be pretty mundane, and others problems will be more severe.
Now, only you can judge how bad the problem is, but as a result of personal experience I wanted to you through the proper steps for dealing with a problem at a nursing home.
Note: about 99% of problems can be handled quickly, if you follow these steps. You may need to bring in someone like the State Ombudsman’s office if the steps I outline don’t work…or if the situation we are talking about is bad enough that it necessitates you calling the authorities immediately.
Get To Know The Staff
Whenever your loved one is,get to know the staff at the facility as much as possible. The people you should know are their…
- Direct aide (the person who attends to their daily needs)
- Charge nurse (responsible for the patients in a particular wing of a facility)
- Nursing supervisor (supervises all of the charge nurses)
- Nursing home administrator
In the vast majority of instances, if there is a problem,bringing it to one of these four people and working up the chain of command….from aide to charge nurse to nursing supervisor to administrator…will fix the problem.
I have previously written about the residence council, which is a regularly scheduled meeting…typically monthly…where the residents of a facility have the ability to air their grievances and state any problems they are having.
If several people are experiencing the same issue, then at the residents council you can, in effect, form your own “union” to deal with these types of issues.
Next up, if the above does not help, I would put my grievance in writing and send it to the facility via a certified letter. In this way, you are establishing a paper trail (and the facility will realize you are doing this) by making them sign for a letter that is a formal complaint about some aspect of the way that the facility is being run.
You do not need to be nasty or threatening in this letter. Just calmly state the nature of the grievance as well as the steps you have taken thus far to take care of the situation.
By putting the grievance in writing, coming across in a professional manner and also sending the letter certified mail with a return receipt, you are putting the facility on notice that your grievance needs to be addressed…and addressed now.
The State Ombudsman’s office would be your last resort…UNLESS the grievance is so serious or of a criminal nature that you need to contact them immediately upon finding out about the situation.
You can think of the state Ombudsman as your “union rep”, who will investigate your grievance on your behalf. In most instances, it doesn’t not need to come to that. However, if you feel that you are experiencing a problem in a facility and you are getting the proper answers, then it is time to call in the Ombudsman’s office to assist.
It is my hope and intention that by outlining the means at your disposal, you have the ability to know what resources are at your disposal for you to take care of your loved one and make sure that everything is running smoothly at their facility.
And also, if there is a problem, you now have an idea as to what steps you can take to alleviate the problem.
I recently had reason to go through these steps, as Mom was saying some things that were disturbing to me about how the nursing home was treating her. What I did, because it was the weekend and really couldn’t speak to anyone was to write the following letter…
To Who It May Concern,
My name is Tony Rovere, and I am writing on behalf of my mother, Ceil Rovere (Room 217a) who has been a resident at [nursing home name I am leaving out] for the past 2 years.
Overall, my mother, my family and I have been satisfied with the quality of the care she has been receiving. But recently there have been three issues which have come up which have not been addressed.
All three of these issues my mother has previously mentioned to the staff as well as in Residence Council meetings, but at no time has there’s been a meaningful attempt to address these issues.
There has been a shortage of towels for her baths. The last time she took a shower the staff had to use a sheet to dry her because there were not any towels available.
And this is not the first time that this occurred.
For the last few months, there has been a recurring shortage of adult diapers in my mothers size at your facility. She is currently wearing a diaper too small for her, and as I said, this also isn’t the first time that this has occurred.
Finally, the most pressing problem she is experiencing is getting an aide to take her to the bathroom in the morning. It seems that Mom is having trouble finding an aide in the morning to take her to the bathroom.
We have tried to accommodate the staff change, around 7am, by Mom waking up earlier (something she really doesn’t want to do but is willing to do in order to accommodate the staff change). The hope is that Mom can get up, get dressed and finish in the bathroom before 7am.
The problem is, however, sometimes she doesn’t always have to go to the bathroom right away. This leads to a problem when she has to go around 730am for example.
She is telling me that in these instances it takes an inordinate amount of time for the staff to get to her to help her on and off the bowl.
I am requesting that either the administrator at Affinity or the nursing supervisor investigate these three instances…
- The towel problem
- The diaper problem
- The toileting problem
And then please contact me.
As I said, overall my mother and I have been satisfied with the away Mom is being taken care of, but these issues need to be addressed.
The day after the letter as received I got a call from the nursing supervisor about all three situations. She was very nice and explained the issues, which amounted to…
- Supply problems with new suppliers (the laundry service for the towels and the diapers) which were being rectified
- As far as the bathroom issue, Mom was asking to go every 20 minutes (something my mother conveniently forgot to tell me about while we were having this conversation) and this was unrealistic for the staff to cater to her in that regard. They “compromised” on an every 2-hour schedule, which the staff could accommodate.
So the best way to avoid issues like this is to keep the lines of communication open with the charge nurse and the nursing supervisor. This will deal with most of the issues that you will experience.