Monday, January 24, 2011

Surprise! State Surveyors Pay a Visit to Your Parent's Nursing Home

Suppose strangers enter your home unannounced. They rummage through your cupboards, financial statements, medical records and more. And then they tell you what's not up to snuff. If your aging parent lives in a nursing home, assisted living or adult family home, that's what happens yearly when state surveyors pay their surprise visit.

Nursing home surveys are the strictest. The licensors look for noncompliance with hundreds of federal and state laws. When they find something wrong, they deem it a "deficiency." Deficiencies can be as minor as finding crumbs in the toaster or as severe as discovering evidence of abuse and neglect.

Surveys in assisted living and adult family homes focus on state laws only, are generally shorter (often two or three days as opposed to four to five for a nursing home), and concentrate on issues relating to quality of life.

Many long-term care employees shake in their boots figuratively when surveyors arrive. Some facilities will hire extra help the day their visitors arrive, so they'll "pass the test." Such tactics remind me of college students cramming for a final exam, hoping the information will enter their brains in time.

You can help the surveyors do their job. They want to know what the facility is like on a daily basis, so they ask mentally competent residents, and family members, too. That's where your valuable input comes into play.

Before finishing the visit, surveyors discuss the results with the staff. If surveyors issue deficiencies, the staff have 10 days to submit a plan of correction in writing.

You don't have to wait until a state survey happens to voice your concerns. In between surveys, the ombudsman is your go-to person if you suspect neglect or abuse.

Do you have experience with state surveys?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Adult Day Programs: Just the Facts, Ma'am

Adult day programs are booming. And for good reason. Similar to children's day care centers, they give caregivers a much-needed break. For the ill loved one, these centers can open doors to the wider world.

Perhaps your aging parents could benefit from such a program. Last week Sandy Sabersky, Executive Director of Elderwise Adult Day Care in Seattle, spoke to a group of senior care professionals. Here are some facts about adult day care, from Sabersky and other sources.

1. Adult day social programs focus on community, friendship and engaging activity. Elderwise is such a program. "The aging person is a whole person," Sabersky says. Her goal is to stimulate the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of the elder's life.

2. A second type of day care, adult day health, specializes in health-related services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy.

3. Programs vary. Some offer drop-in options, others are a four-hour session, from 10 am to 2 pm, etc. Some are designed for elders with memory issues.

4. Adult day sessions often begin with a greeting/coffee time, similar to a supported coffee shop experience.

5. Water color painting, working with clay, and focused discussion on current topics are some of the possible activities.

6. Lunch is included. "We do everything together," Sabersky says.

For more information on adult day programs, check out the National Adult Day Services Association.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Forgot Your Parent's Caregiver During the Holidays? Try These Free Gift Ideas

In the holiday gift buying frenzy, you may have forgotten your aging parent's caregiver. Though you missed the deadline, you can still remember that special person, without breaking your piggy bank.

The following gifts cost absolutely nothing, except a bit of your time and attention. I've seen caregivers, wait staff and housekeepers beam when they receive these.

1. Give sincere compliments. Does your parent's special person shine when singled out for public recognition? Or do they prefer a quiet whisper? Whatever their style, they'll appreciate your attention.
2. Write them a thank-you note. I have a folder stuffed with notes from adult children and their parents with whom I've worked over the years. Just thinking about those kind words makes me smile. When you write, be as specific as possible, such as, "I so appreciate the backrubs you give my mom. It makes her feel so special."
3. Write a thank-you note to the special person's supervisor. Fill it with glowing compliments about the caregiver's compassion, creativity, dedication, etc. Use examples. Close by asking the supervisor to consider including this letter in the caregiver's personnel file. Mail or hand-carry a copy to your caregiver.

Perhaps you can think of other ways to show appreciation to caregivers and other key people in your aging parent's life. Tell us about them.
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