The decision to move a loved one into a long-term care facility is one of the most difficult we may make in our lives. Even when the decision is made, concerns about our loved one continue. Are they getting the best care — the care they specifically need; is the place safe; is it a healthy environment?
“Long-term care facilities aren’t immune to health hazards, from disease outbreaks to residents not being given medications as recommended — a concern frequently raised by nursing home residents and their loved ones,” according to an article in U.S. News & World Report (https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2017-06-20/how-to-monitor-the-care-of-a-loved-one-in-a-nursing-home).
The best way to make sure your loved one is getting the best care in a safe and healthy environment is to visit them frequently and at different times of the day, according to Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, funded by the federal Administration on Aging, tracks complaints about long-term care facilities. Medicare also provides reference material about the facilities.
According to Amity Overall-Laib, director of the ombudsman resource center, the top complaints are:
• Discharge/eviction from the nursing home based on claims the facility is unable to meet a resident’s needs or they were sent to a hospital and will not be readmitted
• Failure by the staff to respond to a resident’s request(s) for assistance
• Staff attitudes — not treating residents with dignity and respect and providing individualized care
• Medication not administered properly, at the right time of day or not given at all, or perhaps given the wrong medication.
Grant expanded on the problem with medications in some facilities.
Discussing visiting a loved one in a facility to monitor their care, Grant recommends visits in the evenings, on weekends and holidays. Because if the facility is understaffed, those are particular times when you will see that, she says.
A common issue linked to understaffing is the overmedication of some residents.
“The inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications, particularly with residents with dementia — that’s another concern that we hear [about],” Grant says. Often, she says, individuals with dementia may be crying out or lashing out, and stretched-thin staff try to calm them with medication instead of providing individualized care and drilling down to better determine their needs.
Overall-Laib, in the U.S. News article, said, “The Older Americans Act requires that every state has an ombudsman program, and they act as advocates for residents in long-term care facilities.
The Arizona Long Term Care Ombudsman program is operated through the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Aging and Adult Services Division. It grew out of efforts by both federal and state governments to respond to widely reported concerns that the country’s most frail and vulnerable citizens, those living in long term care facilities, were subject to abuse, neglect and substandard care. These residents also lacked the ability to exercise their rights or voice complaints about their circumstances.
The primary purpose of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is to identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents of long term care facilities.
It also aims to:
• Educate residents, families, facility staff and the community about long term care issues and services
• Promote and advocate for residents’ rights
• Assist residents in obtaining needed services
• Work with and support family and resident councils
• Empower residents and families to advocate for themselves.
The Ombudsman Program makes every reasonable effort to assist, advocate and intervene on behalf of the resident, according to material on the ADES website.
When investigating complaints, the program will respect the resident and the complainant’s confidentiality and will focus complaint resolution on the resident’s wishes.
The Ombudsman Program accepts complaints from any source. If you have a complaint, concern or would like more information, the Ombudsman Program is available to assist you. For Payson and the surrounding area, the local agency is the Pinal and Gila Counties Area Agency on Aging, 1-800-293-9393.
An Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is a public or nonprofit private agency that helps older Arizonans. AAAs are chosen by the state to plan and coordinate services at the local level.
A Long-Term Care Ombudsman is a specially trained advocate for residents of long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult foster care homes. They seek to improve the quality of life, care, and environment for long-term care residents and work to resolve problems individual residents face.
An ombudsman handles a variety of complaints and is given the authority to receive, investigate, and assist in resolving complaints through federal and state law. They visit long-term care facilities routinely to talk with residents and to monitor the conditions in the facilities.
Complaints investigated can include: quality of care or services; quality of life; rights violations; access to services; service termination; discharge or eviction; public benefit programs.
The ombudsman can also provide information and consultation about resident rights; provider and service options; public benefit programs; and regulations that apply to long-term care facilities.
Residents in these facilities have the same rights as people who are not in long-term care.
• Right to self-determination
• Right to be treated with dignity, respect and consideration
• Right to be free from the use of chemical and physical restraints
• Right to be free from abuse, neglect and exploitation
• Right to participate in social and community activities at the facility and in the community
• Right to know about services and financial charges
• Right to express grievances without fear of retaliation
• Right to privacy in written and telephone communications, visits, financial and personal affairs and medical care.