Things to Know When a Loved One Enters a Nursing Home

Nursing Home Care Plan | Geriatric Care Manager

Most people want to age in place and, for the most part, that is possible. Yet, chronic conditions, declining health and dementia make it necessary for a spouse or parent to go into a nursing home. We offer extensive assistance with long-term care planning for seniors, but it’s vital to have peace of mind that your loved ones are being cared for.

It’s a natural to ask: How can you make sure that your family member is getting the best care possible? Here are some things you can do:

  1. Be an active participant. Ask questions of both your loved one and the staff while you are visiting. Visit at different times to make sure your loved one is getting proper care. Let the staff know who you are. Do small things for your loved one, such as helping him or her to the bathroom.

  1. Make sure there is a Care Plan in place. According to Pennsylvania law, nursing homes are required to assess the resident’s condition, abilities and limitations within two weeks of admission.  The plan must describe the resident’s needs, determine how those needs are to be met and, if necessary, be changed as the situation warrants. The plan must be reviewed every three months. It is a good idea to be present at the first and subsequent meetings and to have a geriatric care manager or attorney present, as well.

  1. Know your loved one’s rights under the Nursing Home Reform Act. If a nursing home is certified to accept Medicare or Medicaid, and many are, they are governed by the Nursing Home Reform Act. This act imposes a number of requirements, such as a nursing facility is required to help a resident maintain or improve his or her ability to bathe, dress, groom, walk, eat, talk and use the toilet. The act also requires that the resident must be able to remain as independent as possible. In addition, under the act, the home must do all that it can to prevent such things as bed sores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. The Nursing Home Reform Act also significantly limits the use of restraints, which require a doctor’s order.

If things aren’t right, then by all means, say something. A person should first voice his or her complaints to the staff and work their way through the home’s chain of command. If care does not improve then the family member should seek assistance from the Long Term Care Ombudsman (717-783-1550). If still unsuccessful, the family member can complain to the Pennsylvania Department of Health  (1-800-254-5164) and ultimately to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Philadelphia regional office, which handles Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia 215-861-4140 or 800-HHS-TIPS 1-800-447-8477, if a loved one is in a facility outside of those states). It is also a good idea to secure the services of a geriatric care manager and an attorney during this process to help guide things along.

Before placing a loved one in a nursing home, it is a good idea to get 20 Common Nursing Home Problems-and How to Resolve Them. This publication can be ordered from the National Senior Citizens Law Center at www.nsclc.org.

While no one loves your spouse or parent like you do, there are times when they need more care than you can provide. That’s where a nursing home can come in.  Still, while you are not the primary caregiver, you are still your loved one best advocate. After all, if you don’t speak up on their behalf, who will?

If you’d like to learn more about long-term care planning for a senior loved one in your life, please get in touch with the elder care attorneys at Newman Elder Law. We specialize in providing assistance to seniors in the Bucks County area.

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