Most people think you need a lot of money to get good care in an assisted living community or nursing home. I don’t think that’s true. Instead, I believe that advocacy is what leads to the best care. I believe that someone with no money on Medicaid can get better care than the person with millions of dollars. How can that be?
Let’s first talk about the fact that everyone in any community should be getting the same level of care. There’s no reason or excuse for some people to be getting better care than others. The reality, however, is that it happens. There are a limited number of people working in an assisted living or nursing home at any one time and they are sharing their time among all of the residents. If some residents require more help than others there could be a disparity in the level of care provided. You job as your loved one’s advocate is to do what you can to get them the best care possible.
How do you help your loved one get the best care possible? By being their advocate. The first step to advocacy is to be there as much as possible. Some people can be there a lot and others can’t be there much at all. If you can do it then that’s great. If you can’t then you can hire someone – a social worker or a geriatric care manager – who can go for you. When you visit the community frequently and regularly (i.e. every Saturday afternoon) the staff become conditioned to make sure you loved one is doing well and is ready for your visit. When you visit frequently and randomly (i.e. various days at various times) the staff never knows when to expect you so the staff must always make sure your loved one is doing well and ready for your visit.
Being there allows you to see how your loved one is doing. Do they look clean and healthy? If there are any problems you will be there to make sure they attend to them. Are they out of their room and being stimulated? While some people don’t ever want to participate in anything because they are more introverted and don’t like being around people, many others will participate if prompted to do so. Being there allows you to make sure they are receiving that prompting and any help needed to fully participate in the activities.
The idea of being there as much as possible can seem burdensome – but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a trick for being there as much as possible while still protecting your time. If you live near your loved one’s community then you can stop by any time of day. Remember, it has to be random. Go in and say hello to the person at the front desk. Make sure they know who you are. Say hi to everyone on the management team that you see while you are there. Sign the book – big and bold so they know you were there. Then sneak down the hall and take a quick peek at your loved one. Make sure you can see them but they don’t need to see you. If everything looks good you can sneak back out. On the other hand, if there’s anything out of the ordinary then you can make your presence known to your loved one and intervene with whatever needs an advocate’s attention.
Being there doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Advocacy doesn’t mean a long visit. It means going in and making sure things are as they should be and leaving. You are welcome to stay and visit but you may not have the time so don’t feel guilty about running in and running out. The reason you might not want to engage with your loved one is because it might be easier for them if they don’t even know you are there as opposed to know you are there but you not staying. What matters is that the people who work there know you were there, they weren’t expecting you when you stopped by and you saw that all was good with your loved one. The more people in your family who can do this – whether it’s all the time or on rare occasions – every moment that people are in the community advocating for your loved one helps them to receive the best possible care.