Hiring a caregiver or putting your loved one in a nursing home is a tough decision to make. If you're aware of the statistics surrounding elder abuse in nursing homes and at the hands of caregivers, this choice becomes even more difficult. Our lawyers at the Jensen and Phelan Law Firm, P.C. specialize in elder abuse cases and know how devastating it is to find out your family member is being hurt by those you thought would care for them best. However, there are several ways you can ensure your loved one stays safe and as healthy as possible while under the care of others, and this starts with ample research into your options.
Daily Assistance or Medical Help
Getting older is a blessing some individuals don't get, but there's an inevitable decline in cognitive ability and mobility. Your parent, grandparent or other loved one may forget to pay bills, eat regularly or neglect personal hygiene in which case they may not need 24-hour care. If they have an advancing medical condition such as dementia or other age-related health concerns, you will need a certified caregiver to tend to these specific issues. When it comes to severe medical issues, you'll have to decide whether a nursing home or at-home caregiver is necessary.
Nursing Home or At-Home Caregiver
A nursing home is often the most feasible option for those with aging loved ones because hiring an at-home caregiver can be expensive, especially as your elder's condition worsens and requires more extensive medical attention. Once you've decided which of these choices you prefer or can afford, you can begin to look at nursing homes, caregiver agencies and ask around for referrals from your friends, neighbors, church-goers and coworkers.
Nursing Home Reputation and Caregiver Background Checks
Approximately one in three nursing homes in the United States have been issued citations or faced legal action for elder abuse or neglect. You can use websites that rate nursing homes such as medicare.gov as well as schedule a walk-through of the facility. During your tour, look for residents that are unattended and pay attention to the cleanliness of the rooms. Is the staff friendly? They will be on their best behavior but look for any queues that make you feel uneasy.
It's easier to research a nursing home than an individual caregiver. A background check is essential during the hiring process, but you can also request to speak with former clients. You'll want to make sure they have the necessary credentials such as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Register Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse. Utilize technology and do some digging on social media to identify unacceptable behavior and learn more about your loved one's potential caregiver.
Experience with Your Loved One's Medical Condition
There are many ailments that aging adults face such as Alzheimer's disease, liver and kidney disease, cancer, vision loss and declining general health. You want to choose a nursing home or certified nurse with sufficient experience with your family member's medical condition. Nursing homes may need to have specialty equipment to monitor their well-being and know how to recognize when more advanced medical attention is required. Another aspect to consider when you're choosing a nursing home is the proximity to emergency care. If you're learning toward an at-home nurse, make sure they have a vehicle and valid driver's license.
A Thorough Interview
Before you set up a tour of the nursing home or a meeting with a caregiver(s), write down a list of questions.
Some inquires to make at a long-term care facility include:
- Is the healthcare facility certified by Medicare?
- Are they accepting new patients or is there a waitlist?
- Do they have a unit specific to your loved one's ailment?
- Are all staff certified and licensed to care for your family member?
- How many beds do they have? Will your loved one have a roommate?
- Are they currently facing litigation?
- Do they conduct background checks on all staff?
- How do they prevent and address abuse and neglect?
- Can your loved one make their own decisions such as moving around the home and daily routines?
- Are they allowed personal effects?
- Will they keep the lines of communication open with you regarding your family member's health and well-being?
- What foods do they regularly serve? Is there a variety of options at each meal?
As for caregivers, ask for their information such as full name, address, social security number, phone number and so on. Other questions to ask include:
- Can I speak with your former patients?
- What experience do you have with at-home care?
- What's your hourly rate and availability?
- What do you love most about home care?
- What do you dislike about home care?
- What certifications do you have?
Another question to ask yourself as you meet with individual caregivers is their ability to lift and carry your loved one if they require help to use the restroom or bathe. As falling is one of the biggest concerns for elders, they will need to be physically capable of helping in an emergency.
These are just a few examples to ask during your interview. Make sure you compile your questions beforehand, so you have answers to all the essentials.
Scheduled and Stop-In Visits
Once you've chosen the nursing home or hired a caregiver, set up a time to shadow them for a few hours to see how well your loved one is getting along and if they're providing the quality of care you're expecting. If you're satisfied with their professionalism, make it a point to check-in regularly and consider stopping by without notice to be sure they're consistently providing excellent care.
Depending on your family member's state of mind, you can check in with them one on one, so they can speak freely without the caregiver or nursing home staff in the room and tell you how they truly feel about their circumstances.
Know the Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Elder abuse and neglect is more common than you realize. Of the 3.2 million nursing home residents in the U.S., 44 percent have reported abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many complaints of abuse go uninvestigated. You can prevent your loved one from becoming part of this statistic by watching for signs of abuse and neglect such as:
- Unexplained bruises, injuries or death
- Rapid weight loss
- Poor hygiene
- Change in behavior
- Rapid decline in health
If you suspect your loved one is being harmed by their caregiver, nursing home staff or fellow residents, please contact our elder abuse lawyer in Prescott today at (928) 227-1116 for a free case evaluation. The Jensen and Phelan Law Firm, P.C. serves patients in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Cottonwood and throughout Northern Arizona.