visiting the ALF

What Everyone Ought to Know about Visiting the ALF

In this post, our experts will share some of the important things they do when visiting clients in an Assisted Living Facility (ALF). Regular visits will ensure your loved one is getting proper care. You can spot issues before they turn into a crisis. During a visit, you can gain a lot of valuable information from observing, asking key questions, and reviewing specific information. This can be done easily and efficiently with these tips. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy with your loved one. When it’s time to say goodbye, leave with peace of mind.

Check out our Guide to Choosing the Right Care Facility if you’re in the process of searching for the right ALF. Contact us to consult with a care manager. We know the ins and outs of local facilities and can save you time, stress and money.

When to Visit: Staffing and How an ALF Functions

If you visit at a set time during the day, you may not be getting a full picture of life at the ALF. Evenings and weekends may be understaffed. If possible, make some visits at different times during the day and evening. Check in during meals. Come on weekdays and weekends. You can get to know different staff this way as well. It allows you to see how your family member’s doing at different times of day. You gain a sense of the routine.

Find out from your ALF how they handle staffing, especially on nights and weekends. You may be surprised to know that in Florida, ALFs with under 17 residents are not required to have an awake staff member on duty. The state does require someone be awake 24/7 in larger facilities. However, that staff member very well may not be a nurse or manager. For example, Florida requires that there is simply someone onsite who has completed first aid and CPR training. You can read more about Florida’s minimum staff hours and requirements for ALFs here. You can also read more on the Agency for Healthcare Administration’s site.

If you feel there are times when your loved one could use a little extra help and attention, consider hiring a personal caregiver. By visiting at different times, you can gauge when they’d be most useful. 

Check out 10 Ways Home Caregivers Can Improve Your ALF Experience

Who to Talk To: Key ALF Staff

You’ll want to get to know the management staff at the ALF as well as direct care staff. When you visit, talk to the nurse on duty and caregivers responsible for your loved one. It’s important to build rapport and have a presence.

Ask about the organizational chart of facility staff at admission. Understand the hierarchy and who to see for which issues. Check in with the floor staff each visit, and make an occasional visit to the manager/administrator. This works much better than only approaching the administrator or managers with complaints. When you do have a concern, those relationships can make all the difference. By checking in regularly with floor staff, you will prevent a lot of problems and likely have fewer complaints.

Occasionally, stop in to check with the activities and dietary staff. You can check on your parent’s nutrition and any concerns. See what kinds of things are on the menu. The activities staff can share how much your loved one’s participating (and in what). This can be an indication that something’s changed or amiss. Your loved one might need encouragement or a companion to escort them to activities.

Care Plan Meetings and Addressing ALF Complaints

At times, you may need to address concerns or changes by setting up a “care plan meeting”. This is an excellent way to collaborate on issues with key staff together at one time. Simply ask the nurse manager or administrator if they can arrange a care plan meeting. You can share your reasons so they can bring the right staff and information.

Under Florida regulations, each facility must have a written grievance procedure for receiving and responding to resident complaints. The process also allows for residents to recommend changes to policies and procedures.

If you cannot get resolution to a complaint, there is a process to report violations to the regulating body. In Florida, to make a complaint, you can call the Agency Consumer Hotline (888) 419-3456 (press 1, Mon-Fri 8:00-5:00). Or, you can fill out the healthcare facility complaint form. Other numbers you may need to know: the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, 1(888) 831-0404; Disability Rights Florida, 1(800) 342-0823; and the statewide toll-free Abuse Hotline, 1(800) 96-ABUSE.

Most times, however, you can resolve concerns with the facility and get better results. If you’re having difficulties, a patient advocate can help.

How to Review the Chart

Too few family members review their loved one’s chart. It may seem intimidating. Often people think the chart is just for medical professionals. But, if you are designated to receive your loved one’s health information, you’re permitted to review the chart.

Make sure the facility has the appropriate healthcare surrogate documentation and any other permission form they may need. Arrange this upon admission. Also, always check the facility’s information to be sure they have you (and any other responsible parties) listed under emergency contacts. You can check the contact information on the “face sheet” of the chart.

On each visit, it’s a good idea to take a look at the chart. You can check the notes for concerns or changes. Review the medication record. Note if any medical professionals have seen your loved one (or are scheduled). Sometimes the facility may make incorrect arrangements. For example, they schedule Mom to see a visiting podiatrist when you always take her to hers. Look to see if anyone’s made changes to the care plan, treatment, or meds. If you’re designated as responsible party, you should be informed of changes. But, it doesn’t always happen. You can address any problems or questions right away with a quick chart review.

Visit Checklist

  • Chart review: Any changes? Is the contact information correct/up-to-date? Does the chart have the correct vital information, such as allergies, listed? Any upcoming appointments? Notes about any concerns or changes in your loved one?
  • Medications: Are medications being given as prescribed? Are meds being refilled on time? Have they noted any side effects? Any recent changes to medications?
  • Diet: Is your loved one eating well? Visit during mealtime to observe. Look at the quality of meals and the dining environment. Talk to the kitchen staff. Check your parent’s weight.
  • Hygiene: Does your loved one appear clean and well-groomed? Do you smell any odor? How often are they bathing or getting help with a shower? Do you notice any incontinence or toileting issues? Are they getting to the hairdresser (on site or off) as needed?
  • Room: Is the room tidy and clean? Is there clutter? Safety issues or tripping hazards? Does the room have an unpleasant odor? (You should also observe public areas for cleanliness and safety.)
  • Appointments and follow-up: Are there any upcoming appointments? Have the arrangements been made? Do you need to schedule an appointment/arrange transportation? Does staff need to follow up on anything for you? Do you need to arrange any meetings/chat with any staff?
  • Don’t forget to enjoy some time together just chatting, reminiscing, or sharing a snack.

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