Welcome to the first post in our 2018-2019 guest blog post series!
Achieving Quality Care in Long-Term Care
By: Esther Goldstein, B.Sc., B.S.W., RSW
Relocating your loved one to a long-term care home is a difficult, stressful and emotional process. Finding a home that can provide quality care and meet any necessary social, emotional and practical needs, takes a lot time and effort. It can be an exhausting process from start to finish especially for those that are also juggling caregiving tasks. Helping the person adjust to their new home and ensuring that their needs are being met, are priorities once the move has happened.
As a first step, once your loved one has moved into the home, make sure that you have the name and direct phone number of a primary person who can be your contact in the home if a problem arises. If there are concerns at any time, discuss them promptly with facility staff. Be available as much as possible during the settling in phase. Keep in mind that change is scary and there will be an adjustment period. Don’t be afraid to give feedback to staff – both positive and negative. Don’t forget to give praise when it is due and let them know that you appreciate all that they do for your loved one. Keep in mind how difficult their jobs are and how valued they will feel if you recognize the ‘little extras’ that they do. If you do have negative comments, take care when phrasing concerns so as not to come across as accusatory. Take the time to speak to staff when you visit each time. Find out how the person is adjusting and help the staff get to know their new resident. Share important things about them that will help in the process; what are their likes and dislikes, hobbies, family members etc. If there are behavioral or cognitive issues, pass along some coping strategies that work for you. As there are likely several shifts of staff that each need to get to know the person, you may want to post some information on the wall near their bed that will help them work with your loved one.
During your visits (both in the ‘looking for a home’ phase and also once your loved one has moved) it is important to observe interactions between staff and residents to ascertain if residents are treated in a respectful way and if their needs are met with care and kindness. Once your loved one has moved, if they are mentally alert, ask them regularly about how things are going. In the early days, if there are complaints, it might be a bit difficult to determine if they are related to adjustment or actual problems with the operation of the home. That being said, it’s important not to discount any concerns that are related to care and comfort. You may need to be present to observe the situations in question or gently approach staff to discuss issues in a non-threatening way.
Keep in mind that the most important factor in determining ‘quality of care’ in any care setting is the staff. This is easy to ascertain if you take the time to watch and listen during your visits. Get to know other residents and their regular visitors. Developing relationships with both staff and residents will ensure that if there are problems, you are notified of them in a timely matter. Focus on the food quality, cleanliness of the home and residents, and staff attitude. Join a Family Council if there is one. If you have the time, participate in activities in the residence. This is one important way to both help your loved one adjust and create opportunities for you to get to know the people who live and work there. Request regular meetings to review any issues and ensure you attend all meetings that are arranged by the home for family members. Ask if your loved one can participate in these meetings if they are able.
For caregivers who struggle with having to relocate someone to long-term care, it is important to keep in mind that you are still a caregiver even if the way you fulfill that role has changed. Let your loved one know that you are always available for them and will ensure that they receive the best care possible in their new home.
Esther Goldstein, B.Sc., B.S.W., RSW is a former acute care hospital social worker and the author of the “Comprehensive Guide to Retirement Living®” now in its 21st edition. She also administers the affiliated national website www.senioropolis.com and lectures on Eldercare issues in various venues. For further information on this and other topics related to seniors and relocation visit www.senioropolis.com