Care Outside of the Home

Cenetta Lee

Sometimes our loved ones require skilled care that can’t be adequately delivered in the home environment. That’s when you’ll need to look for a rehabilitation facility or nursing home. But finding the right place is difficult and time-consuming. Knowing your relative’s assets, liabilities, and level of health-care coverage will make it easier to assess the type of facility he or she can afford.

Your loved one may be in the hospital when you learn that he or she needs to be in a facility. If so, ask a social worker on staff to suggest some locations. Once you have a list, narrow it down to three or four facilities that meet your criteria. For example, is the location optimal, affordable and able to meet your relative’s needs? Next, schedule site visits. It’s a good idea to take a family member or friend with you to act as a second pair of eyes and ears. The Medicare Web site has a checklist of what to look for during on-site visits or call 1-800-633-4227 to inquire.

No matter how thoroughly you conduct a site visit, however, some facility shortcomings won’t become apparent until your relative is living there. But your loved one’s care will be greatly enhanced if you visit often and become a persistent advocate. Question medical staff, social workers and business-office staff about your concerns. Remember to document all staff conversations for future reference, noting the date, the person’s name and the issue discussed.

Skilled-nursing facilities typically conduct periodic meetings for family members. Be sure to attend them so that you can voice your concerns and hear what family members of other residents have to say. These meetings can alert you to situations to watch out for—and perhaps to prevent your loved one from experiencing.

In addition, most facilities hold private, care-plan meetings. They allow you to address issues with staff caring directly for your loved one. These meetings are sometimes difficult, especially when you’re angry about situations that you’ve addressed but continue to go wrong. If this occurs, request a meeting with the facility’s director. Create a list of your concerns and support them with your documentation of previous discussions with staff. Remember, you’ll be a better advocate for your loved one if you remain calm, clear-sighted and respectful.