Positive Problem Solving

By Nancy Carman, MA, CMC

You’ve done your homework and taken the time to make sure that you’ve made the best assisted living residence or nursing home match for your loved one. Now, if you make the effort to develop a positive working relationship with the staff that provides care to your loved one, you’re more likely to get their cooperation when a problem arises.

When your loved one first moves into an assisted living residence or nursing home, your role in helping the staff get to know your family member is an important one. Sharing with staff what makes for a “good day” for your loved one is also helpful. Who better to share their daily schedule and the things that bring them satisfaction and pleasure than you? No detail is too small, if it’s important to your relative.

Ongoing communication with the staff of the assisted living residence or nursing home is fundamental to getting good care for a loved one. Try to visit different days of the week and different times of day. This will allow you the opportunity to meet most of your loved one’s caregivers and to develop a rapport with them.
Remember to voice your appreciation to staff members when you see them providing good care. A written note of appreciation to the specific staff person, copied to the executive director or facility administrator, can make a world of difference.

Should an issue arise, such as repeated complaints by your loved one about the food, poor care from a staff person or roommate problems in a nursing home, it is important to speak up. First and foremost, make sure that you have accurate, documented information. The first person you might want to speak with is the nurse supervisor. If there is no resolution of the problem, you may find it helpful to talk with the social worker at the residence.

Nursing Homes are required to periodically hold care planning meetings for each resident. A team of staff members discusses each resident’s needs and any changes that should be made in their care. It is important that you and your loved one participate in this meeting and voice your concerns.

Otherwise, the facility administrator or executive director is your next stop. Again, present your concern and complaint in a non-emotional, non-threatening manner. Be very clear about what has transpired, whom you have talked to and what your expectations are. You will find that most of the time your concern will be addressed and remedied at this level.

Family Resident Councils can also be a good source of support and insider information. Typically members meet monthly at the residence and discuss ways to communicate with staff when problems arise. You will find them to be genuinely interested in maintaining and/or improving the quality of care for all residents. Many times, approaching a facility administrator or executive director with a group concern is another effective way to bring about change.

What can you do if you still feel that your loved one’s issue hasn’t been resolved? Depending upon the facility, the next step is to speak with a local agency. You can contact your county Area Office on Aging through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare Locator web site http://eldercare.gov/ . The Area Office on Aging can put you in touch with the appropriate agency that oversees that particular facility for licensure and/or certification. Again, make sure that you have accurately documented your loved one’s grievance and the steps that you have taken within the facility to try and resolve the problem.

If your loved one’s grievance is with a nursing home and you feel that the issue has not been remedied by anyone on staff, nursing home residents have access to an ombudsman. A Nursing Home Ombudsman is a consumer advocate who will investigate the situation and attempt to resolve the resident’s complaint. Each county has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office. The Area Office on Aging will be able to provide you with the phone number of your local ombudsman.

Nancy Carman is a gerontologist, Certified Geriatric Manager, and advisor to MyGuide for Seniors. Read more of Ms. Carman’s Aging Successfully series at www.myguideforseniors.com .

Return to list