As our parents age, it’s natural to worry about their well-being. We want to make sure they are getting the best possible treatment from their care providers. Here are a few things you can do to help them get the high-quality healthcare and services they deserve.
1. Evaluate if your parent is satisfied with their living conditions.
Talking with your mom or dad about the care they would like as they age is a meaningful conversation to have. Openly discussing living arrangements can help you both understand the options available, from home health services to assisted living. If your parent decides to live in a senior facility, periodically ask them about their comfort level with the accommodations.
Take stock of every aspect that can affect your parent’s overall experience: professionalism, cleanliness, food quality, transportation, nursing staff, and social activities. Evaluate how well staff members are meeting their needs and if there are adequate resources for the number of residents. Talk to other residents and family members while visiting and see what they have to say. If you find discrepancies between what was promised initially and what actually turned out, bring those issues to management’s attention sooner than later. Often times management is not aware and will appreciate information that will help them improve.
Some parents befriend the people taking care of them making it difficult to be critical. I noticed a sharp difference between the personalities of my mother and father. While my father was inclined to go with the flow and become complacent, my mother consistently brings issues to my attention.
Based on my experience, the quality of services provided by senior living facilities can fluctuate quite dramatically due to the management and staff. Turnover can be very high, and the quality of service can be inconsistent between day shift and night shift staff.
Staying in the know about how your loved one is being treated is a never-ending task. Understand their concerns and ask questions – this honest dialogue enables you to have informed discussions with management if intervention is ever needed.
“Remember that patients and their family caregivers deserve to be informed, heard, and respected by healthcare providers.”
2. Assess if healthcare providers are meeting your needs.
Many characteristics make up a good healthcare provider. While most I’ve associated with have been great, there are attributes that make some outstanding, which is what most of us want for our loved ones.
A good physician takes time to explain things, often providing the assurance and understanding that you both need to feel better about the situation. Not only should they be able to go over tests and medicines thoroughly, they should explain the associated risks and side effects so that you and your parent can make well-informed decisions. Remember that patients and their family caregivers deserve to be informed, heard, and respected by healthcare providers.
If the doctor has not provided a full assessment that includes a review of their physical and mental health, as well as their ongoing plan of care, request one. Regular assessments identify potential issues before they become more serious health problems. Family members also need opportunities to discuss changes in the parent’s mental or physical condition and ask questions about medications and other treatments. This provides peace of mind and confidence that things are on the right track.
A full understanding of any conditions and prognoses can also help you act accordingly if a situation arises. I have been going with my mother to her quarterly oncology check-ups for over 10 years, and being knowledgeable about her condition has been valuable. When symptoms arise, such as a chronic nosebleed or joint pain, I can identify what is normal for her versus what is cause for concern. This lets me put her at ease and avoid unnecessary trips to the ER. Furthermore, I can share this information with staff at her assisted living facility so that they will respond appropriately and not be alarmed.
3. File complaints with state authorities if needed.
It is your right to receive quality healthcare and to expect professionalism from those you entrust with your loved one’s wellbeing. If neglect or malpractice occurs with any living facility or healthcare provider, it is vital to take action by speaking out and filing complaints with state authorities.
Complaints can be submitted if providers are unprofessional, neglectful, not maintaining facilities, not providing adequate care, overcharging for services, or exhibiting other unethical practices – all of which could put your parent at risk. The complaint process can be arduous and emotional; however, necessary for things to change.
I recall a situation with my mother’s primary care physician, who was reluctant to transfer her to another hospital network. We both became frustrated with his trial-and-error approach, so I complained to the state medical board. Within 24 hours we got transfer orders to a bigger and more advanced hospital. The proper diagnostic was performed, which led to her getting better care and a faster recovery.
If at any point you need help or are unsatisfied, immediately reach out for support. There are plenty of organizations and individuals who serve as advocates for the elderly and their family caregivers. Check out these resources that are available in your state.
With patience, understanding, and research, you can attain the proper care and quality services that allow your aging parents to live with dignity and comfort throughout their senior years.
Enjoy the journey.