May 12, 2013

How to Be Sure Nursing Home Staff Treat Your Loved One as Well as Possible

By Marie Marley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Marie Marely
Marie Marley
No one wants to place their loved one in a nursing home, but let’s face it – sometimes it’s the only alternative.

Some people have full-time jobs and can’t be there all day to provide the amount of care that’s required. And at times there’s no other available friend or family member either.

In addition some people simply can’t afford to hire in-home help.

In other cases, especially in the later stages of the disease, the person with Alzheimer’s simply requires more care (and time) than the family and in-home caregivers together can provide.

So if you must place your loved one in a long-term care facility, you may as well do everything in your power to be sure the facility’s staff treat the person as well as humanly possible.

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The nurses, aides, activity directors and other long-term care facility employees spend a tremendous amount of time with your loved one.

They are the ones who help shower, dress and feed residents who need assistance with these tasks. They provide entertainment and arrange for socialization. Most importantly they strive to promote the residents’ overall wellbeing by any means possible.

On occasion, however, there is friction between staff and family members. This is unfortunate because staff members typically become deeply attached and devoted to the residents for whom they care.

Disagreements with the family cause distress for all involved and just might influence the quality of care provided to your loved one.

Unfortunately, some people look down on the aides and other staff and think they are only there because they couldn’t get better jobs. But most employees in long-term care facilities are there because they have chosen this as a profession of which they are proud and to which they are firmly dedicated.

The following list of things you should never do will help you avoid pitfalls that can occur when interacting with long-term care facility employees.
  • If you are dissatisfied with a staff member’s behavior don’t hold it in and let it eat away at you. Communicate the issue promptly and directly to the administrator or director of nursing. Never confront an aide directly.
  • Don’t skip your loved one’s regularly scheduled care conferences. These are good times to discuss your wishes or concerns about the care your loved one is receiving and get updates on how he or she is doing.
  • Don’t order the staff around. If you have requests related to the care of your loved one discuss them with the director of nursing or the administrator.
  • Don’t ignore input and suggestions from the staff. They spend far more time with your loved one than you do. Stay open to any suggestions they may give you.
  • Don’t expect miracles. Specifically, don’t expect staff members to achieve things you yourself cannot accomplish. For example, If your loved one paced the floor at home, the staff may not be able to make him or her stop pacing at the facility.
  • If you have a large family, don’t ask the facility to communicate information to each one. This is tremendously time consuming. Instead, designate one person who will receive information from the facility and then share it with the others.
  • Don’t give tips or bring gifts for the staff if the facility has guidelines forbidding them. Find out the facility’s policy. If gifts are not allowed give handwritten thank you cards to those you want to recognize and thank.
  • Don’t be a chronic complainer. Everyone needs a compliment from time to time. Find something positive to say when you can and be sincere about it. Before lodging a complaint make sure the issue is really a problem. And address any problems to a supervisor, department director or the administrator.
  • Don’t call the facility at especially busy times such as mealtime, bedtime or the change of shifts. You’ll interfere with the staff carrying out their duties and they won’t have time to give you their full attention.
  • Above all, treat the staff members with respect. Never belittle, criticize, or be accusatory when interacting. Treat them as you would wish to be treated.
Following these simple guidelines will help you avoid problems that can occur.

More importantly, it will make your visits far more pleasant and satisfying for everyone – you, other family members, the staff and your loved one.

Come Back Early Today:
A Story of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy
Marie Marley, PhD, is the award award winning author of, Come Back Early Today: A Story of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. You can visit Marie’s website at ComeBackEarlyToday.
 A different version of this article has appeared on the Huffington Post.
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