We all have grandparents, parents, and other relatives that need to be cared for in their old age. But it’s not always convenient or affordable to hire a caregiver to help them out. This is where nursing home care come in. Nursing home care facilities offer assisted living and long-term care for seniors.
These facilities are required to provide good care for their residents. However, this isn’t always the case. There are times when a nursing home may neglect its residents or cause emotional or physical abuse.
The New York Times published an article in 2017 about how assisted living facilities have become more dangerous places to live. The article highlighted several cases where patients were neglected and abused at nursing homes across the country, something that calls for critical nursing home reform.
The stories were gut-wrenching, but also not surprising given how many families have lost loved ones because of substandard care in nursing homes. It is estimated that over 40,000 seniors died within the first quarter of 2020 after being abused or neglected while living in a nursing home.
These alarming figures underscore the need for more advocacy for nursing home patients. When nursing home residents have people speaking on their behalf, the chances of things going wrong will reduce dramatically.
In this article, we look at advocacy in nursing home facilities, the example of good patient advocacy, and why more and more people should support nursing home patients.
What Does Advocacy Mean In Healthcare?
Advocacy is the act of supporting a cause. In healthcare, advocacy can be used to refer to a staff member, patient, or family member’s efforts to secure care for themselves or a loved one. It can also mean working with physicians and other healthcare providers to ensure that the patient’s needs are met.
In the long-term care system, patient advocacy is critical to ensuring that patients have access to quality healthcare services and that they are getting the best possible care from their LTC facility.
Why Is It Important to Support Patients In Assisted Living Facilities?
Nursing homes are like any other business. They want to keep their residents happy and comfortable, so they can get the most money from their families. Unfortunately, not many nursing home residents are happy. Some patients cannot even speak for themselves and communicate their needs to the staff, which is why the older Americans act was introduced.
Advocacy through the older Americans act enables third parties to speak up for the resident of a nursing facility. Some advocacy in nursing examples includes a family member, a family council, a friend, an employee of the facility itself, someone from local ombudsman, or a lawyer. A good advocate will have your best interests at heart and will work hard to make sure you receive the best care possible.
Here are different advocating for patients examples that these individuals provide:
ENSURING SAFETY FOR NURSING HOME RESIDENTS
Advocates can help ensure that the nursing home provides a safe environment for its residents by monitoring the facility and reporting any abuse or neglect that is occurring there. They also make sure that medications are being given properly and that doctors’ orders are being followed correctly.
LISTENING TO CONCERNS
Advocates can help keep track of changes in your loved one’s health that may require more attention from medical professionals. They will also be able to help communicate concerns about your loved one’s care directly with the healthcare team at the nursing home. This means that if something goes wrong with your loved one’s care, they will be able to address those concerns quickly so they don’t get worse or become more serious than they already are.
Advocates educate patients about their rights under state law and regulations, including any rights regarding medical treatment, legal rights, and more.
PROTECTING PATIENT RIGHTS
Advocates can protect your rights as a patient in case you have complaints about your care. They can help you in reporting abuse, getting bills paid, taking legal action if necessary and advocating for you in other ways that may be necessary to solve problems related to your care.
ASSISTING WITH SOCIAL AND FINANCIAL ISSUES
Advocates can assist with social services like helping patients find housing after discharge from the nursing home or providing transportation services for visits outside of the facility. Financial issues may include helping patients fill out Medicaid applications or helping them apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Many nursing home residents have limited or no private family members who can advocate on their behalf. As a result, they may be vulnerable to neglect and abuse by nursing staff. Advocates can help patients feel safe and secure in the home system.
These individuals can also help patients navigate the system by providing information about their rights under Medicare and Medicaid as well as state laws regarding nursing homes. When more and more people become involved as nursing home advocates, we will see an improvement in the care residents get.
Types of Advocacy
There are different types of patient advocacy.
MEDICAL FACILITY ADVOCACY
This focus of medical patient advocacy involves working with the staff at hospitals and other care facilities to ensure that residents receive the highest quality care possible.
In some cases, this may involve making sure that patients are getting the right medications or tests ordered by their doctors. In other cases, it could mean ensuring that patients receive adequate nutrition.
LEGAL SYSTEM ADVOCACY
Sometimes patients cannot get the care they need because they cannot afford it or because they lack insurance coverage. Legal system advocacy involves working with lawyers who provide a free legal case review. These lawyers push for nursing home reform by appealing to government agencies, the resident council, citizen organizations and the public health ministry. Other advocates in the law field participate in volunteer opportunities for providing consumer voice.
Sometimes the lawyers specialize in health law to help patients make sound medical decisions or obtain coverage for needed medical treatments and medications.
Legal system advocacy also involves providing legal help to people to make informed choices and understand their legal rights and options when it comes to medical issues and healthcare coverage. For example, if you feel that your doctor misdiagnosed you or gave you the wrong treatment plan, or that your nursing home is neglecting you, then you may wish to consult with an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice cases.
Who Can Be A Nursing Home Advocate?
Nursing home advocates come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: they’re highly motivated to help nursing home residents receive the best possible care and treatment. They may be employees of a nursing home, or they may be volunteers.
Examples of professionals that can work as a nursing home abuse advocate include:
Hospital patient advocates. Patient advocates work in hospitals and other health care facilities to protect residents rights and ensure they get the best care possible. They may visit patients in their rooms or hospital beds, advocate on behalf of patients’ families and assist with discharge planning.
Long-term care ombudsman. This type of advocate monitors conditions at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other types of long-term care facilities, investigating complaints from residents living in these facilities. The ombudsman also offers counseling services to help in resolving complaints that arise between residents and facility staff members.
Medicare beneficiary ombudsman: This individual works for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to help beneficiaries understand their Medicare benefits and make sure they receive quality medical care from providers who accept Medicare payments from CMS.
Independent contractors. If you are a lawyer, accountant, or another type of professional who has experience working with clients and advising them on their legal rights, you may be able to provide legal services on behalf of your loved one.
For example, lawyers can represent you if you have a dispute with your nursing home about how well it’s caring for your loved one.
Volunteers. If you don’t have any experience as an independent contractor but still want to help out your loved one, there are many ways that you can volunteer your time and energy to help them get better care at their nursing home.
Some people volunteer their own time while others work with a group or organization that offers free services to seniors. This category can also include family members and friends of residents who are concerned about their loved one’s care.
How To Advocate In Nursing Homes
When an elderly family member enters a nursing home, it’s not uncommon for them to feel like they have lost control of their lives. Plus, nursing homes are often understaffed and overburdened with residents, so it’s not uncommon for residents to be neglected or abused. These reasons are exactly why older adults in nursing home facilities need more advocacy.
In some cases, you need a medical background to be a client advocate in nursing homes. However, other professional skillsets and passion for the job can see you get started in advocacy roles for older adults in long-term care facilities.
The following are top tips for when you want to advocate for a nursing home resident.
DO YOUR RESEARCH WHEN CHOOSING A NURSING HOME
USE THE MEDICARE NURSING HOME COMPARE WEBSITE
You can use this tool to compare information such as quality measures and violations at individual facilities. It also includes links to other websites that offer information about specific facilities. The Medicare website is updated regularly, so check back often if you have concerns about certain facilities or if you’re looking at a new one.
TALK TO FRIENDS OR COLLEAGUES
Talk with people who have experience with nursing homes — either through their experiences with their own loved ones’ who have been in long term care facilities. Another easier option is by visiting the assisted living facility by yourself. When they describe to you, pay attention to what they say about the staff, the cleanliness of the living facility, whether there is elder abuse, enough staff on hand and whether there are any issues with under-qualified staff members (for example).
VISIT THE FACILITY
If you decided to visit residents at the potential assisted living facility, check if there are no sign of nursing home neglect. Learn if they can handle complaints from older adults, and if they can provide equal care and quality care. You want to make sure that the facility is clean and that there aren’t any signs of abuse or neglect from staff members toward patients or visitors alike.
VISIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE
Visiting as often as possible is an important part of advocacy because it gives you the opportunity to observe how your loved one is treated and cared for. You can also talk with other people who visit the nursing home frequently, such as family members, friends, or neighbors.
DOCUMENT YOUR OBSERVATIONS
If you’re concerned about the quality of care in a nursing home, take action. Document everything when visiting your loved one: how they look; how they act; how they respond when they see you; etc. This will help give your attorney ammunition if he or she decides to file suit against the facility on behalf of your loved one after reviewing all available evidence.
The world needs to support nursing home patients — people who can step in and speak up for the residents when it comes to their care and treatment. It’s the only way to resolve problems and ensure that our loved ones do not receive poor care.
To be an effective advocate, you need to know resident rights and understand other resources needed for quality care. Nursing home resident rights are human rights by any federal standards, thus worth everyone’s attention.
Advocates can also provide information about what’s happening at the nursing home to other residents’ families and friends not be able to visit as often as they’d like. This may be because of work or other commitments. You, and resident and family councils can play this role for your the older people, even if they are complete strangers.
This is possibly the best way you can ensure that your loved one is receiving the best care in a home.