Leaving a loved one in the care of others is not an easy decision to make. The best-case scenario would be for a relative or close friend care for them. As this is not always possible due to schedules and the complicated medical care needed, you may have to trust nursing home staff to oversee care of your family member. This can be a nerve-wrecking and frightening decision, but there are some things you can do to ease your mind and ensure that your loved one is receiving optimal care.
Make Frequent, Unscheduled Visits
In the beginning, it is assumed you will make quite a few visits to the facility to bring in clothes and a few personal items. After the initial week or so, staff may ask when you, members of your family or friends may usually visit, this is used to help them anticipate when they should have your loved one available, and not involved in an activity or napping. While that knowledge is helpful to the facility staff, the unexpected visit can sometimes tell you more about the way the facility is run and what the “normal” for the facility is.
Monitor Your Loved One’s Eating Habits
After every meal the amount of food consumed as well as fluid intake for each facility patient is recorded in a book at the nurses’ station. This knowledge can be shared with family members. The bathroom habits of patients are also recorded. Should your loved one’s eating habits changed or they are not regularly using the bathroom, ask the nursing staff for assistance. Medications sometimes decrease appetites and change elimination patterns.
Lock Up Valuables
While no one should enter a nursing facility with valuables, it is customary to wear wedding rings or gold necklaces. Other small valuables such a MP3 players, Cds and small amounts of money can usually be locked up in a secured drawer in your loved one’s room. A portable lock box is not recommended.
Label everything in a permanent marker, right down to the socks with your loved one’s name. Most often the facility will perform housekeeping duties, including laundry. All clothing, including underwear, should be labeled with a laundry marker. Also make sure shoes are labeled. Accidental mix-ups are common and labels make it easier for the staff to locate your loved one’s belongings.
The more questions you ask, the more the facility understands that you are actively involved in the care of your loved one. If you see anything you do not understand, speak up. Go to the nurses directly involved in your loved one’s care. Ask for the social worker to sit down with you and other family member. Facilities will understand your loved one’s needs better if you allow them the opportunity to meet them.