It’s no secret that understaffing in nursing homes is a serious issue in the United States. Understaffing happens for a number of reasons, including a high employee turnover rate and facilities trying to save money. There, however, is never any reason that excuses poor care. If your loved one’s nursing home facility is understaffed, there are steps you can take to ensure they receive the care they need.
How to Become Involved in Your Loved One’s Care
When understaffing is an issue in a nursing home facility, seniors are at risk of being neglected or even abused. In order to reduce the chances of that happening and to ensure your loved one is receiving the treatment and respect they deserve, it’s important to stay involved with their care.
Under the Nursing Home Reform Law, which was part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987, family members have a right to be involved with their loved one’s care when they enter a nursing home. This is assuming the resident states want family involvement. They do have the right to refuse family involvement. That, however, does not happen often.
From the initial move to ongoing involvement, there are a number of ways family members can become and stay involved in their loved one’s nursing home care to ensure that understaffing isn’t an issue.
Initial Family Participation
Within the first two weeks of your loved one’s stay, a resident assessment will be completed. This assessment is key to ensuring they receive the care they need to maintain their physical, mental, and social function. In addition to the initial assessment, this is also completed at least once a year or when significant changes take place. The assessment gathers information about the resident’s health and physical condition, in addition to their relationships, activities, and hobbies.
You and your family can conduct the assessment with your loved one, along with nursing home staff, social service staff, dietary staff, and activities staff. One of the most important things you can do is to introduce your loved one to the nursing home staff and share their unique story and personal habits. If, when you meet the staff members, you are concerned about understaffing, bring the issue up.
After the resident assessment is completed, the facility will develop a care plan. The plan will establish how staff members care for your loved one on a daily basis. It clarifies what each staff person will do and can act as a guide for the resident and their family members, so everyone knows what to expect. It’s important to evaluate the care plan on a regular basis to make sure it’s still optimized for your loved one’s needs.
Ongoing Family Involvement
After your loved one has gotten adjusted and their care plan has been established, you can transition into ongoing involvement. Visiting often is a crucial part of this. When you visit your loved one, you can evaluate their emotional and physical wellbeing.
Plan your visits around a time that is more comfortable for your loved one. If, for example, they’re having difficulty sleeping, they may sleep easier if you visit prior to bedtime. But, it’s also important to visit during different days and times of the week, so you can ensure your relative is receiving the care they need at all times. Look for signs that there are not enough staff members, like unclean facilities. You may even want to consider keeping a guest book in your loved one’s room, so visitors and family members can communicate with each other and write down things as they notice them, so nothing is forgotten.
In addition to visiting your loved one frequently, you’ll also want to get to know the staff. It’s important to develop relationships with the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) because they are responsible for the most direct care your relative receives. There may be cause for concern if your relative’s CNA changes regularly.
Advocating for Your Loved One
Advocating for your loved one means recognizing how important their care plan is and actively participating in it. Remember that you are the primary advocate for your loved one, so learning staff members names and roles, monitoring your loved one regularly, and raising concerns as needed is crucial. When there are fewer staff members than what the facility needs, advocating for your loved one’s care is even more important.
If a problem ever arises, it’s important to be firm with your relative’s facility. Document and report any concerns to staff as soon as they arise. If you don’t see any results, you can report the issue to a supervisor in writing or set up a meeting. While it’s important to remain respectful, be assertive and confident. Doing so will increase your chances of your loved one receiving better care. If your concerns are still not being addressed, do not hesitate to contact your local ombudsman. They advocate for all nursing home residents.
You can also advocate for your loved one by joining a group called Family Council. This was established with the law reform in 1987. Facilities must provide a meeting space for family members and staff to discuss issues. Families do, however, have the right to meet without a staff member present. They can address concerns as a group and offer suggestions for change.
Even when you advocate for your loved one, issues can arise. If you believe understaffing is creating a problem for your loved one, it’s important to act on their behalf. If there are any speculations that your relative is being abused or neglected, you’ll want to remove them from their situation as soon as possible. Once that’s been done, you should consider contacting a personal injury lawyer. At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we work to ensure negligent nursing home facilities and staff are held accountable for their actions. To begin the claims process, contact us today.