When Mom or Dad moves to an ALF, families hope to find relief for their worries. Assisted living care should mean that your parent is safe, getting good nutrition, taking medications correctly and basically in good hands. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a given. So, our team will share how you can get the peace of mind that Mom or Dad is getting the best Assisted Living care.
Make the right move to start.
The foundational step to your parent getting the best Assisted Living care is obviously making a good facility choice. This means not only a facility with high-quality care, but a good fit. No ALF is perfect, but quality indicators range from staffing and upkeep to staff responsiveness. Facilities will make mistakes. But, it’s all about how they handle them and prevent them in the future.
If you’re in the process of making a decision or just trying to convince your parent to move, read How to Choose the Right ALF.
Why that’s only the beginning...
Unfortunately, assisted living care issues plague even some of the better facilities. Medication errors are fairly common. In a review of facilities in one county in California, assisted living employees overlooked serious medical issues, gave the wrong medication or otherwise failed to properly care for vulnerable seniors almost 100 times in a year. These failures caused twenty-seven deaths. And, relatives were often not told about mistakes.
These concerns can be prevalent in Assisted Living Facilities which often have limited clinical staff. In Florida, for example, staffing requirements are based on care hours but the minimum is one awake staff member for every 17 residents. You might be surprised to find that there’s no nurse on staff at your ALF. Facilities today tend to care for residents with greater needs even though they are not intended to be healthcare facilities. Of course, many facilities exceed minimum staffing levels.
We don’t mean to create panic with these statistics. But we find they come as a surprise to many families. Greater knowledge can help you prepare and take steps, such as those below, to ensure quality assisted living care.
Arm the ALF with the information they need to provide the best care.
Communication goes both ways. Have you made sure the ALF has everything they need to do the best job for your loved one? How do you communicate this and to whom? What’s a care plan meeting? When something goes wrong, how do you get the information communicated to various staff? How will they communicate changes to you?
All of this feels a bit confusing when first dealing with an ALF. You most likely only have contact with someone in the marketing department prior to moving in. But, those contacts won’t be who you need to talk to later. It’s important to find out who handles what and establish those relationships early. You want staff to know who you are and who your parent is. They need to hear from you to know what you want and need.
If you don’t live nearby or just find all this overwhelming, you should consider hiring a care manager advocate. Or, if you’re frustrated with the situation, get a care manager to evaluate and make suggestions. They have experience with recommendations that have worked and creative solutions. This can improve collaboration with the facility. Therefore, your loved one gets better care.
Be proactive and prepared.
Meet with staff on a regular basis to review your loved one’s assisted living care. This is often termed a “care plan meeting” in the industry. The facility may have regularly scheduled meetings and you can also request them. Come prepared with a list of questions and issues. Share areas you think are going well also. Make helpful suggestions and contribute, rather than simply complaining and demanding. Your care manager can help you know your rights and what is realistic. When something may not be feasible, they can suggest other approaches or resources.
Review your loved one’s chart regularly and ask staff about any status changes. Not sure how to read a chart? You may want to hire a care manager to guide you or do this on your behalf.
It’s a valuable process, possibly revealing changes or issues you haven’t been informed of. Sometimes they are small things, but the knowledge can prevent big problems. For example, the facility may review medications and notice your loved one isn’t on a standard medication. The nurse then contacts the doctor to change the medication. But, perhaps there’s a reason your loved one doesn’t take the standard medication. Regular reviews give you peace of mind that you know what is happening with the assisted living care.
Another area to be prepared for is emergencies. Understand what will happen if your loved one has a fall or medical issue at the facility. For many problems, they will be sent out to the ER. Be sure that all your contact information is in the proper place on the chart. Find out the process the facility will follow to inform you.
We highly recommend someone meet your loved one at the ER as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the information communicated from the ALF is often limited. And, your loved one can be quite vulnerable in this situation. One option is to make arrangements with a care manager for crisis intervention services.
If your loved one goes to the hospital, has surgery, or other major changes, it’s essential to be proactive. Will your loved one need additional support at the ALF? Will the assisted living care be sufficient, or do you need to hire private-duty caregivers? Or does your loved one need a higher level of care? It’s better to be overly cautious to be completely sure your loved one gets the necessary care during these sensitive times.
Get your parent the best care possible.
Talk to an advocate, get an assessment, get help finding the right ALF or ensuring your parent is getting just what they need.