Advocating Patient Rights in Nursing Homes

nursing homes

As the baby boomers get older, so do their parents. Many of those parents are in nursing homes right now. It’s important for children of the elderly to know their parent’s legal rights when in this situation. Having an action plan will go a long way to reduce the burden of stress when it’s necessary to advocate for a parent in a nursing home.

A Guide for Children of the Elderly

When a parent is admitted to a nursing home, the first thing an advocate should do is look for the “Nursing Home Patients’ Rights,” which must be posted on a wall in the facility. If it isn’t posted, let the administrator know that it needs to be posted. Search the internet for these rights for the state where the patient resides. There will be a phone number that can be called if neglect or abuse is suspected. By law there is a staff per patient ratio that must be met. Find out if the facility is meeting these standards. If not, report it.

As an Advocate for Parents in a Nursing Home Show Gratitude

When the parent first enters the nursing home, ask to speak to the director and let him/her know your parent is there, and it’s nice to meet him. The old adage, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar” is true. The workers in nursing homes have one of the most undesirable jobs available. Let them know in every way that you appreciate everything they’re doing for the patient. Everyone needs to feel appreciated and that they’re doing a purposeful job.

One woman whose mother was an Alzheimer’s patient would buy chocolate candy bars from a specialty candy store and take to the staff periodically. If a particular staff member is doing an excellent job with the parent, write a note to the director letting her know. When the person hears about it from her supervisor, you will have made her day.

As an Advocate for Parents in a Nursing Home Be Visible

Visit the parent often–once or twice a day if possible. This lets the staff know that someone is watching them. Make sure the parent is having their needs met. If they complain of pain, make sure someone is doing something about it. The following story is true, but the names have been changed:

Ashley’s elderly mother Norma Jean was admitted to a nursing home. While she was there, she fell and complained about back pain thereafter. A visiting cousin told the staff that something needed to be done for her, because she was in a lot of pain. Nothing happened.

One day Ashley was visiting and Norma Jean started crying because she was in so much pain. When Ashley told the staff that Norma Jean needed to go to the emergency hospital, they insinuated that she was pretending, because she wanted to go home. They came to this conclusion because Norma Jean had told the physical therapist earlier that week that she wanted to go home. Norma Jean wasn’t asking to go home. She was asking for medical treatment.

Ashley instructed the nurse to call the doctor to get approval for an ambulance to transport her to the hospital. The doctor wouldn’t approve it, because her vital signs had not gone up, which is common when a person is in pain. Ashley was told that unless the doctor approved it, Medicare would not pay. Ashley told the staff to call an ambulance and the family would pay for it. At the hospital, it was discovered that Norma Jean had some fractured vertebrae–hence all the pain. She had a procedure to mend the vertebrae and stayed two days in the hospital. Medicare did pay.

Advocating for a Nursing Home Resident

Ashley stood her ground. She remained respectful toward the staff, but she let them know she wasn’t going to be intimidated. She wasn’t going away until she got results. Norma Jean didn’t want her daughter to call the staff on anything. She was afraid the staff would take it out on her. Ashley voiced her mother’s concerns about this to the staff. Again, it was a way of letting them know that she was watching them and expected them to treat her mother with dignity and kindness.

The nursing home patients who get the best care are the ones who have a loving family member advocating for them. Keep in mind the aides working in nursing homes doing the worst jobs are usually uneducated. Treat these people with respect, and get to know them. They are the ones who will work directly with the parent most of the time. Ask the director if they do background checks on their employees. Yes, it’s the law now, but don’t take any chances. Search the internet for nursing homes that have been in violation of state laws and plenty will appear.

Remember, the parents who get the best care are the ones who have an advocate.

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