ELDER LAW - Advocating for a Loved One in a Skilled Nursing Facility
When your loved one is admitted into a skilled nursing facility, your job as a caregiver is not over. Sure, there is staff comprised of diverse professional backgrounds in the facility at all times. But staff members cannot possibly know your loved one and their journey leading up to admission better than you. While you might not be as “hands on” with care as you may have been in the past, there are steps that you can take to ensure that your loved one is receiving the best possible care, whether it be short or long-term. And of course there are resources available to help you determine those steps.
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care can be accessed via their website at www.consumervoice.org. They offer a consumer fact sheet which can be found at http://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/family-member/assessment-and-care-planning.pdf. This fact sheet provides a simple checklist of things to consider as you prepare for care conferences and during the conferences, which (like many doctor appointments) are typically short, at 15-20 minutes in length.
The care conference is a meeting of members of the multi-disciplinary team which direct a resident’s care. It is held internally every 90 days and involved family members and advocates are always invited, but not required to attend. Given the fast pace of most facilities, the care conference provides a rare and essential opportunity to “get everyone to the table” to strategize on an individual’s care plan. Typically members from social work, nursing, occupational therapy, nutrition, therapeutic recreation, and physical therapy are present at a care conference. It can be held in the resident’s room, but are likely held in a designated conference room. Each team member does a brief overview of how the resident is progressing within their disciplines of care. If attending on behalf of a loved one, it is vital that knowledge of your loved one’s priorities and history is brought to this meeting. Also, questions should be prepared ahead of time regarding your loved one’s care thus far and its direction for the future. In the case of a short-term stay, it is essential that necessary next steps are determined to ensure the safest possible discharge. While they are held every 90 days, they can also be called again if a resident has endured a marked change in condition. Remember to always ask about when the care conferences are scheduled and ensure that they accommodate your schedule so that you can be present.
Also, be aware that your voice can also be heard by local government through the state long term care ombudsman program. Connecticut’s state ombudsman is Nancy B. Shaffer. The website to access their offerings is http://www.ct.gov/ltcop/site/default.asp. For example, this office offers a non-medical transportation program to nursing home residents and trainings to community volunteers to be effective advocates for residents’ rights. The state ombudsman program is also meant to be influential in policymaking initiatives. Bringing questions and complaints to third-party advocates who are not employed by the skilled nursing facility is always an option available to residents and their families.
At Weatherby & Associates, PC, our life care coordinator, provided through our innovative life care plan program, is available to attend care conferences as an additional advocate for our clients. We are experienced in making our clients’ voices heard to the skilled nursing leaders who provide daily care. We understand how vital care conferences can be in the process of ensuring our clients have the highest possible quality of life. To learn more about our firm, contact us at 860-769-6938.
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