As our loved ones age, we often find ourselves mired in some of the hardest decisions of our lives, and theirs. One of the more dreaded decisions revolves around nursing homes and other assisted-living facilities. Even if it’s clear that someone needs medical care and supervision for extended medical conditions or even for day-to-day living, the decision will be met with fear from all sides. And in spite of the efforts of many dedicated medical professionals nationwide, some of these fears are founded on fact.
We’re going to talk through some of these concerns, and discuss what you can do to make a more comfortable and better-informed decision about the ongoing care of your aging family members.
Fears of the Decision-Maker:
Neglect of Their Loved One
One of the biggest fears people face is the fear of neglect. Nursing home abuse stories are often horrific and not reported until long after the abuse has taken place. Checking for reports of abuse or neglect and understanding the accreditations of the facility and its staff will go a long way towards understanding the level of care your loved one will receive. But don’t stop there — one of the best ways to understand how an assisted-living facility and its staff will operate is by visiting in person, preferably without an appointment, and truly observing the level of care that patients receive.
Displeasing Their Loved One
Not all elderly are put into nursing homes willingly, even when the need for the additional care is clear. Making any kind of change can cause friction, and the unfortunate nature of this kind of change is almost certainly going to result in a loss of independence and fears of abandonment. In some cases, you may find that your loved one is angry about the decision you are making for them. Assure them that you will be a part of this solution, and that you are bringing medical professionals into the loop, not cutting your family member out of it.
Paying for the Care
Nursing home care can be expensive. If you are having trouble with this, ask about financing assistance and find out if the state or social security will help cover the care of your loved one. It’s not uncommon for the contract to include the transfer of an individual’s assets or estate into the control of the assisted living facility — this may not always be in your best interests. While the cost of care can be very high, there are a number of options for alleviating that cost. In practice, it may be more of an issue of understanding all of the options open to you and ensuring that whatever method of financing you use to cover the costs is fair and equitable.
Fears of the Loved One:
Being Forgotten About
Sometimes, the elderly worry that their loved ones will not come around as much once they are in a home. Though life may become hectic or busy, it is important to regularly visit your loved one when they are in the nursing home. Make frequent scheduled and unscheduled visits, and while you’re there, make sure the staff knows that you are involved in this process and that a deficit of care will be noticed.
Receiving Poor Care
You’re not going to be the only one to have heard horror stories coming out of nursing homes. In fact, your loved ones will be far more concerned about being left in a hostile environment than even you are. Addressing this concern starts with due diligence, but carries on with regular visits and a personal investment by you and the rest of your family in the level of care being given by the staff. Always listen to the complaints of your loved ones, and never write them off — it tends to be those unfortunate individuals whose families aren’t as involved that become the eventual victims of neglect or abuse.
Being Unable to Make Decisions
The very nature of the decision you’re trying to make is going to reduce the independence of your loved one. But while nursing homes are often portrayed as places where the elderly do not have a lot of choice as to what they do or what they eat, there are varying levels of care and control associated with different types of facility. If your loved one still has some true independence, try to find a home that’s appropriate for their condition, gives them the care they truly need, but doesn’t take from them the ability to make those choices that should still be theirs to make, such as activity, mobility, and diet.
Warning Signs of Neglect or Abuse
The elderly are sometimes subjected to poor care in the nursing home, though they can face abuse or neglect anywhere. This can include physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse, as well as neglect. Understanding and looking for the signs of poor or abusive treatment can help you choose an appropriate facility, and it will also help you spot any inappropriate care that takes place. If you notice any of these, investigate immediately. If you suspect that your loved one is being victimized or neglected, seek the counsel of a seasoned attorney who is well-versed in nursing home cases immediately. No one deserves to be abused or neglected, and the elderly are all-too-frequently seen as easy targets.
Changes in Behavior
Everyone changes as they age and late life conditions like dementia can make it difficult to understand changes you might see in the behavior of your family member. But it’s important to keep track of changes in perspective, behavior, and outlook as they transition into assisted living. These changes might be as simple as adjusting to the new environment and caregivers, but they may also be a sign of over- or under-medication, poor care, or even emotional abuse.
Limited Privacy for the Elder
In cases of abuse or willful neglect, an abuser will go to great lengths to make sure that their victim is and remains isolated. They may even threaten them so that they do not say anything over the phone and refuse to let you see them alone. You may be able to pick up on this through changes in their behavior, but any point where it seems difficult or strained to see your loved one privately should be cause for serious alarm.
While aging people with limited mobility may suffer occasional bruising during transfers from wheelchair to bed, if even this is a regular occurrence, it may indicate, at the very least, that staff is not taking the requisite care in their practices. Worse still, sometimes, nursing home accidents are not accidents at all. You should be wary if injuries happen too frequently or if welts, bruises, or scarring appear on the body, especially if they appear in more than one area. You should also pay attention to dislocations and broken bones, broken eyeglasses, or other signs of physical restraint.
Signs of Neglect
If your loved one is being neglected, there are a number of signs to watch out for. This includes an unsanitary or unsafe living conditions, dirty and disheveled appearance, bed sores or other untreated physical problems, and malnutrition and dehydration. Smells can also be an indicator of poor care and cleanliness — a sign that the staff is being neglectful in their practice. While this may not be intentional abuse, it is, by any other name, medical malpractice and should be treated as such.
Visit Your Loved One Often
The decision to put the care of someone you love into the hands of a nursing home is one of the toughest choices the average person has to make. In addition to being aware of the signs of elder neglect or abuse, you should visit your loved one often and be involved in their care. Being aware of the signs will not help if you are not around to notice them, and patients with families that are heavily involved in their lives tend to receive the highest quality of care and the lowest occurrence of abuse and neglect.