Protecting Our Parents 3

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Brenda Gildersleeve is a social services worker for the Medical Center. She says: "There are always going to be positives and negatives anytime a patient has to leave their own home. It's a big, big decision for both the patient and the family."

A big decision with limited resources on how to make it. The first step you can try is contacting your area ombudsman.

Ruth Morgan says: "As an ombudsman I'm available to help residents in nursing homes who have problems questions or complaints. We have concerns around the area about an experience a nursing home resident is having."

Morgan is the Barren River District ombudsman. In addition to trying to resolve problems in nursing homes, she also helps advise families on how to choose one.

Morgan says: "It's a very hard decision to make and it's particularly hard because you're not always given a lot of time to make it. Most commonly the person is living at home fairly successfully and they maybe fall and break a hip. They go to the hospital and the doctor says this person cannot stay alone."

If a nursing home is the option you choose here are some things to consider.

- What kind of services do they provide?
- How much does it cost?
- Is it close to family?
- And most importantly what kind of care does your loved one need?

Morgan says: "We tell people the best thing to do is to look at the residents and see how they look. Are they well dressed? Are they cared for? Do they interact well with the staff? Are the clean? Are they smiling? Are they engaged in good activity? Or are they sitting in chairs staring at the floor or at the wall? And is the staff looking grumpy and harried?

Another way to find out if the nursing home is the right fit for your family member is to ask to see their inspection reports. They are responsible for showing you the results from the past three years, but those too, can be tricky.

Morgan says: "Nursing home care can change quickly so the answer to that question is, you really don't know. You really don't know because the things that are really good right now, could change overnight with a change in personnel."

Morgan says one of the most common concerns is the fear of speaking out to management if a family member feels their loved one is receiving inferior attention. Some worry the staff will take it out on their relative. One way to stay on top of that concern is to have a presence in the nursing home.

Gildersleeve says: "We encourage families who have patients in nursing homes to visit frequently to be involved in the patient care to know what's going on. To be there to be an advocate for your family member."

The Barren River ombudsman program publishes a yearly guide with information on nursing homes in our area. The 2006 edition comes out May 1. It will have 23 pages of information on the levels of care, the methods of payment, and more.

To get a copy, call 1-800-355-7580.