Three Simple Steps to Guarantee Great Nursing Home Care

Three Simple Steps to Guarantee Great Nursing Home Care

By Joanna R. Leefer, Senior Care Advisor/Advocate

Families rarely want to place a family member or friend in a nursing home.  But when faced with the responsibilities of providing 24-hour care for an aging person who has ever-increasing physical needs, a nursing home frequently becomes the best alternative.Grandparents

One of the biggest fears about nursing homes is that a loved one will not get proper care.  We have all read new stories about nursing home staff neglecting or abusing residents. But remember people are more interested in reading stories of misconduct than reading about an aide that refused to leave the side of a dying patient.

A new Senior Housing complex in the Midwest.

Most nursing homes fall between these two extremes.  The majority of nursing homes are capable of offering good care but it takes an added ingredient to insure a loved one to get optimum care. That ingredient is you.  You, or a person you assign, can make the difference between so-so care and great care.  Here are three simple steps that insure a resident gets great nursing home care.

1. Become Your Loved One’s Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you, if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. Some states may refer to this document by another name, such as Durable Power of Attorney or Power of Attorney for Health Care. Regardless of the title, these documents allow a patient’s wishes to be followed, even when she is incapable of communicating.  Whatever the name, this document allows you access to your loved ones medical records, and permits you to approve or disapprove particular medical decisions.  Even more important, it allows you to remain in the room when your loved one is being changed by a nursing home aide or by a medical person.  This is particularly important because it allows you the opportunity to see if your loved one is developing pressure sores or signs of bruising.

The health care proxy is an easy document to obtain; you can download it for free through the Internet.  To find your state’s contract, search the Internet under your state and “Health Care Proxy,” e.g.  “Health Care Proxy + Missouri.” You do not need a lawyer to activate it, only two adults to witness its signing.

2. Visit Often And Vary Your Schedule

The more you visit someone in a nursing home the better care they will receive. Every visit reminds the staff that you are concerned for your loved one and that you demand they get the best care. Be unpredictable! Don’t always visit on the same day or time. This will keep the staff on their toes. Be sure to visit on weekends, evenings, and holidays, when many facilities are not fully staffed. Come at meal times or in the evening to make sure your family member has not been put to bed too early, is not isolated, and is not left out of activities. You don’t have to stay long, just “pop in” and out.  When visiting, introduce yourself to all the staff members, so they know you are watching them. Make sure you let everyone know if you are having doubts about your loved one’s care.

If you live in another state or are unable to visit for some reason, you should appoint someone to visit your loved one, either another relative, a friend, or a professional like a geriatric care manager, senior care advisor, or social worker. Make sure you trust the person and feel assured that he will be vigilant in following your loved one’s care.

3. Become The Squeaky Wheel

You know the old adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Anytime you have a question about your mother’s care, voice your concern.  If you are not sure if she is being bathed frequently enough, ask. If you think her clothes are wrinkled, let the staff know. Make sure your dad’s hair is combed, that he is well shaven and involved in all the activities he is interested in. The more often you make a comment or ask a question, the more likely the staff will think of you as they care for your loved one.

If you are still not satisfied with your loved one’s care, be sure to document your concerns in writing.  You will then be armed with a written record showing names, dates, times, and events, which you can take to upper management to confirm your concerns.


These three tips are sure fire ways to insure the nursing home staff will give your loved one the best possible care. The staff will realize that you are alert to your loved one’s needs and will not allow less than the highest possible care. In this way you become instrumental in making sure your loved one gets the care she deserves.

Here is a preview of the book:

Excerpted from “Almost Like Home: A Family Guide to Navigating the Nursing Home Maze”. Special price for readers $9.95


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