Admitting your aging parent in to a nursing home is a very difficult thing to do even it it’s just temporary. I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face when he was wheeled out of an ambulance in to a nursing home for rehabilitation. I’ll most definitely not forget that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Lucky for us, I knew how to make the best of it and I want you to be able to do the same for you and your aging parent…
Education + Positive Attitude = Better Experience
Ombudsman: Every nursing home in America has an ombudsman assigned to them. There is variation from state to state in terms of qualifications and scope of practice but they should all be able to field complaints, provide information, and advocate for your aging parent. It’s important to always work with the facility first on any issue you have but know that your ombudsman is there for you and can help you facilitate any concerns you may have. To find your local ombudsman Google: ombudsman, your county name and the name of your long term care facility.
Care Conference: Just as every nursing home has an ombudsman assigned to them every nursing home in required to hold a series of care conferences that include you, your aging parent and an interdisciplinary team that should include a nurse, social worker, activities director, dietician and a member of the therapy team, if appropriate. You and your parent should receive an invitation to this conference. If this is not happening, ask to be invited and attend. This gives you an opportunity to have an entire team of professionals in front of you at one time and you can get some very valuable input.
Connect: Find the person in the nursing home that can help you. For us, it was the evening shift nurse. She seemed to know what she was doing was willing to share information and always followed through. Plus she did a heck of a job with my dad’s catheter care. There’s no guarantees but your social work would be your best bet in terms of finding your advocate and the person willing to help you the most. On the other hand, a nursing assistant may be the person to provide you with the most insight in to how your aging parent is getting along. Regardless of their title, I want you to find that person you feel you can trust and connect with.
Attitude: Don’t go in to this with a chip on your shoulder. It’s very common and oh so easy to project your fears and anxieties on to the nursing home staff. The saying “you can catch more bees with honey versus vinegar” could not be more true when it comes to working with the nursing home staff. In general, nursing home employees care a great deal for the residents they care for and you’re going to get a lot more help and understanding if you treat them well. This is not to say that you overlook poor care or live in fear of retribution but be respectful. They work hard and your attitude towards them can make make all the difference in the world. It’s human nature to gravitate towards those who appreciate us so try to keep a positive attitude!
Pick Your Battles: There will be plenty of things you can complain about in the nursing home so I advise you pick your battles wisely. What are your “line in the sand” issues? What are problems that you can live with? What are the deal breakers? For us, I wasn’t real thrilled about the overall environment and communication in our nursing home but the nursing staff did an amazing job at providing intermittent Foley catheter care without introducing infection. The lack of communication drove me nuts but at the end of the day the catheter care was far more important and I relied on the evening nurse to get the information I needed so I didn’t complain. Pick your battle wisely!
I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that moment when you have to admit your aging parent in to a nursing home but knowledge and a positive attitude can help ease the anxiety and make for a better nursing home experience. I know a lot of you have had this experience so please feel free to share any ideas or tips you may have that could help someone else make the best if it!