Many times the question that goes through a potential client’s mind is “What could I have done differently to prevent what happened?” The answer almost always is “Nothing.” Unfortunately, sometimes that does not happen and you find yourself facing questions about what could have been done differently.
From a family member’s perspective, being informed and involved as much as you can is often the best you can do. Your job is not to provide the medical care, but you can ask questions – lots of questions – about the care that is being provided. Sometimes just understanding what’s going on and knowing what to look for can help. If you know what symptoms to be looking for, it can help you know when something is just not right and what to report to the professionals who should know what to do. In a nursing home, that usually means talking to the nurses who are at the nursing home – but don’t stop there if you are not satisfied with their answers or are not 100% confident that they are telling you what you need to know. You can always call the doctor yourself or insist on being present when he or she makes rounds. Most doctors are happy to talk to family members and address whatever concerns they have. If they are not or are hard to get in touch with, this could be a sign that you may want to look for a new doctor.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak to the director of nurses or administrator at the nursing home to ask questions or express concerns. It is their job to make sure things are going smoothly for all the nursing home residents. Remember that they cannot address your issues if they do not know about them.
Attending care plan meetings is also a good opportunity to meet with the people who provide care and get information about what is going on. If you can’t attend the meeting when it is first scheduled, don’t be afraid to ask them to reschedule for a time when you can make it. Also, be creative, ask if you can attend by telephone or, if all else fails, can they send you a copy of what will be discussed ahead of time so you can send your concerns in writing before the meeting. Again, you won’t know unless you ask.
It is often said that informed patients are the best patients, and in the long-term care setting, it is true that informed family members make the best family members. So ask all the questions you can to understand what is going on.