Monday, February 15, 2010

You, an Advocate? Ya Betcha!

Janice is an advocate. Looking across my desk in the nursing home where I worked in a management role, she began her story.

“I visit on Saturdays, and often arrive at 2 pm. A few times Dad hadn’t been shaved, and his sheets were wet. How can I complain without being labeled a trouble maker?”

I was a bit puzzled. This was an excellent nursing home. Janice’s concerns were real, though, and needed to be addressed.

Perhaps you are an advocate for your aging parent, or know someone who plays that role. If your parent lives in an assisted living facility, a nursing home or adult family home, you’ll address issues from lost socks to missing dentures to poor care. Your job is to speak on your parent’s behalf to the person who can help. Here are some guidelines.

1. Pick your battles. In a nursing home or assisted living facility, clothes get lost. Don’t sweat it; either do the laundry yourself or shop at thrift stores, to reduce replacement costs. Move into action, though, if care needs aren’t met—if mom has lost five pounds in a month, for example. Janice, in the example above, was playing her role appropriately when Dad wasn’t shaved or changed until afternoon.
2. Choose the right person at the right time. In a nursing home, don’t address the problem with a nurse’s aide. He or she doesn’t have the authority to make changes. Instead, make an appointment with the charge nurse and only go to the Director of Nurses or Administrator if the issue persists. I asked Janice to express her concerns to the Nurse Manager.
3. Show appreciation first and then state the problem. Nursing home staff work hard and need positive strokes. Be truthful in pointing out the good such as “I can tell your activities director enjoys her job. In fact, all of the staff seem to like working here.” When you begin to address the problem, stay on track; don’t digress. Keep your temper and work toward resolution, not blame. Your goal is to work together to find a solution.
4. If things improve, phone to say thanks. “I want to thank you so much for moving mom to a different room. She likes her new roommate.” Those kinds of statements will be music to the ears of hard working nursing home management.
5. If all else fails, consider moving your parent to another facility.

Perhaps you have some other tips. Or stories about your own advocacy efforts. Please share them.

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