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Are there rigid wake-up, bed and meal times, or do patients have some choice? Do the menus offer selections? If possible, talk with a few residents and their family members.
Leefer suggests preparing a checklist for the nursing homes you are considering, listing issues relevant to quality of life, quality of care, safety, nutrition and hydration.
Admission to a nursing home is not automatic, but based on such factors as availability, care requirements and the patient’s condition. It is best to submit applications to chosen homes well in advance of a needed admission. Waiting lists can be longer than a year.
Your job does not end once a family member is admitted; monitoring the care is critical. At first, expect resistance from the patient, often accompanied by a loud desire to “get me out of here now.” Visit often and stay as long as possible to ease the transition, Leefer says.
Be sure you or someone trustworthy is authorized to serve as the patient’s health care proxy so critical medical decisions can be made when he cannot speak for himself. Make sure you have access to medical records, and be present when the patient is examined and dressed. Check for any hints of physical abuse and signs of incipient or existing bed sores, which can become infected and hasten death.
Learn the names of staffers in charge of various services, and speak to them about the patient’s special needs or problems. Keep notes, dated, with any issues of concern.
Try to solve any problems with the nursing home staff. Be polite and soft-spoken, and avoid confrontation. A hostile approach puts people on the defensive and is unlikely to get the patient’s needs addressed.
If necessary, speak to the heads of departments; filing a formal complaint with the health department should be a last resort.
Coming Tuesday: A guide to finding a nursing home that specializes in patients with dementia.