This makes me sick: A broker in California used nursing home residents’ identities to scam investors.
I hope that no one ever has to use the information in this post. However, senior caregivers are in a unique position to either help people in their most vulnerable hour or inflict serious injury on them. While the industry has been working (somewhat unsuccessfully) to improve its safety record, there are a few things that you can do if you notice a facility isn’t properly caring for its residents:
First of all, if it’s an emergency, call 911. I sometimes forget to mention this because it seems really obvious, but not everyone thinks about it. If you see someone who is in serious danger, you can (and should) call the police. It may turn out to be something that is best handled by another agency, but, frankly, why not let the management sort that out? Your job is to keep your loved one safe.
Also, don’t hesitate to remove your loved one from the situation. There are probably other nursing homes in your area that meet your criteria and can provide good-quality care. If something “just doesn’t seem right,” then feel free to take your business (and your loved one) elsewhere.
If it’s not an emergency, but you suspect that there are problems or if you feel that your loved one is being unfairly treated, then you have a few things that you can do to help the situation:
1) Document everything. Whatever the situation, you will have a much stronger case if you keep a detailed record of your findings. Take pictures. Write down notes if you notice unusual behavior, bruising, marks, treatment, or other problems with dates, times, and other pertinent details. In some cases, police have even used hidden cameras to catch nursing home abuse. (Note: Check with authorities before placing hidden cameras or wires, since recording without someone’s consent can be a crime in some areas.)
2) Call the nursing home ombudsman in your area. You may not know it, but there is an individual (called an “ombudsman”) who is designated as a consumer advocate in your area. The nursing home ombudsman program is completely free for you to use, and the ombudsman in your area will be able to help you get your grievances resolved. Click here for information about locating an ombudsman in your area.
3) Call the state health department, aging, or human services. States regulate nursing home and assisted living facilities. Often, the state will handle certification and bed licensure, which means that a ding on the state’s database can prevent bad communities from having their licenses renewed. Formally submitting a claim can help open investigations into nursing home abuse and cement the case against operators. You should note two things about state oversight: 1) The department that regulates nursing homes differs from state to state, so you’ll have to do some research online to find the right person. 2) State regulatory oversight can be a slow and steady process, so you cannot count on the state to fix problems in a short time period. If your loved one is in danger, remove them from the facility immediately.
4) Call the county health department. Often times, the county will have some oversight in local nursing homes, especially when it comes to how the kitchen is handled. If you encounter a problem with sanitation, county health department employees may be able to help intervene to fix the problem.
Again, I hope that you never have to use the information in this post. Unfortunately, some residents of assisted living and nursing facilities experience abuse or neglect. It’s up to family members, friends, and concerned staff members to do something to prevent this type of treatment from continuing.
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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just published a manual for detecting financial abuse in the elderly. It’s written for nursing home staff, but it’s pretty useful for anyone.
I’ve got a friend who just moved into a senior housing. Her children live miles away from here, and as she gets older, she has decided that her best bet is to move into a an independent living community. As she’s gone through this process, I’ve helped her with some of the aspects of the move and, through it, have gained a better appreciation for the role that friends can play during this time in life.
If you’ve got a friend who needs your help in finding the right retirement community, here are some tips:
Ask first. Before moving forward with any of these other suggestions, make sure to ask whether or not your friend wants help. It seems like common sense, but not everyone wants a companion when they visit retirement communities.
Offer to drive. The retirement community that my friend ended up picking was right down the street from her old apartment complex, but having me there to make sure that we arrived on time, drive her, and drop her off at the door really helped her focus on making the most out of the visit.
Help carry papers or purses. The marketing department will offer you all sorts of goodies during your visit: a folder containing community information, a bottle of water, etc. It’s a lot to handle, especially for a person with mobility issues. Bringing a backpack or even just offering to help carry these items can be very helpful.
Make a list of questions beforehand. When in the thick of things, it’s hard to remember which items are important. Consider helping your friend write down a list of questions ahead of time. Carry the list in your pocket so that it’s easy to reach during the marketing visit.
Offer emotional support. The idea of moving to senior housing can be very stressful for some people. Seniors often just need a friend to hear their concerns. Try to focus on listening, and let them discuss their concerns.
Try not to push the issue one way or another. It may be blatantly obvious to you which decision is “the best,” but try to let your friend work through the decision on her own.
Allow her time to come to an independent conclusion. Again, it may be hard to be patient. But, most people will recognize when they need help. If you can, allow your friend time to come to a decision regarding her move.
After visiting the local retirement community with my friend, we went out for Chinese food and discussed our impressions of the visit. At the time, she was against moving, since her apartment offered numerous advantages over the retirement community. After several months of consideration, she finally decided to move. Now that she’s been in her new apartment for a few weeks, she wishes that she had moved earlier!
Gone are the days when we could rely on our family to handle all of our aging needs. Seniors who have no close family members benefit from the trusted companionship of friends. If you’ve got a friend who is interested in moving into senior housing and has asked for your help, don’t hesitate to tag along and lend a helping hand.
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If anyone should win an award for being too pushy, it’s probably me. I can’t seem to take “no” for an answer, and I don’t mind throwing all of my powers of logic and persuasion into the argument to help make it harder for the other person to deny my position. But, when it comes to senior housing, trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to move is a bad idea. Here’s why:
- Their stubbornness isn’t based on logic. Well, at least not the type of logic that you’re probably employing. The problem with arguing about a person’s safety and comfort is that they don’t view the decision in those terms. A large number of seniors view the move to assisted living or a nursing home as an admission of weakness, or worse, that the end is near. Giving up one’s home and autonomy isn’t something that they want to do because it implies that they’ve lost relevance. So, any arguments you make, no matter how persuasive, will likely fall on deaf ears.
- For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more you push, the more they’ll push, the more they’ll hate you. Your best bet is to help them discover senior housing on their own.
- Do you really want to be “that” person? There is a fine line between being a crusading child who cares about a loved one and being a crusading child trying to push through his/her own agenda. While you may see yourself as the savior in the situation, you might also be turning people off with your tactics.
If you feel that there are safety concerns associated with your loved one staying home alone, then you have some options:
- Begin documenting health and behavioral problems. The more data that you can bring to the table, the better prepared you’ll be for future discussions. Having a demonstrated pattern of behavior or health problems can help convince otherwise reticent family members that there is truly a problem.
- Call a family meeting. Inevitably, there will be one family member who says, “Everything is fine, Mom’s just a little confused.” There will be another family member who wants to send Mom to a nursing home as soon as possible. The trick is to lay out all of the information and craft a plan so that everyone feels more comfortable with the situation.
- Considering hiring help. The easiest way to delay a move to a nursing home is to hire someone to come in and help on a daily basis. This has a few benefits: not only will someone be there to report back on Mom’s progress, but Mom will also have someone making sure that she eats and bathes on a regular basis.
- Focus on quality of life. Being able to prepare your loved one for life in a new community is your greatest asset as a caregiver. Having scheduled transportation and an active social calendar can help give seniors back some of the independence they may be losing by staying at home. Focusing on the benefits of such an arrangement is to your advantage. Another option, especially for seniors who have had surgery or need short-term help, is to emphasize how temporary the move can be. Once they regain their strength, they’ll head back home.
While almost all seniors have qualms with giving up their independence, most will eventually realize when they can no longer live on their own. Unfortunately, that realization may take longer than you would like. Rather than try to force someone to move when they aren’t ready, take time to understand why they’re reluctant to move. Don’t try to reach a conclusion in one sitting. Instead, focus on small changes that can improve your loved one’s quality of life and help give you peace of mind.
Note: This post originally appeared at Cariloop.com.
There is a somewhat new model of senior caregiving that is growing in popularity; it’s called adult daycare. The concept is just like you imagine: adults who have working caregivers can congregate, receive regular meals, and engage in some fun activities. It works much like regular daycare in that you pay a fee per day, and that fee includes a specific set of services.
While the number of adult daycare facilities is relatively small compared to traditional retirement communities, there will likely be more open as this concept catches on. If you’re in the market for adult day services, here are a few questions to ask:
- Are you regulated by the state? If so, what is your standing with regulators?
- What’s included in the daily price?
- Are there any discounts for purchasing multiple days?
- What sort of training and background checks do your employees undergo?
- What activities do you have, and is participation required?
- What happens if there is an emergency?
Like any other retirement community or facility, you’ll want to pay attention to your gut feelings as your take your tour. Things like dirty tables and disgruntled staff can be a bad sign. However, finding the right adult daycare can help provide caregivers with much-needed rest and relief.