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Protecting Your Loved One in a Nursing Home

Updated November 3, 2021.

Even if you live in another part of the state or country and cannot regularly visit your loved one in a nursing home, there are steps you can take to help keep your loved one safe. First, you should ask someone at the facility in charge of your loved one’s care, “Is my loved one at risk to suffer an injury?” This should be an easy question for the nursing home to answer because state regulations require nursing homes to conduct comprehensive assessments of every resident upon admission and when there has been a significant change in status. Listen carefully to the information you are given. If the topics do not arise, you should specifically ask about two very common risks faced by many nursing home residents:

  1. The risk of a pressure injury (also known as a pressure sore, pressure ulcer, bed sore or decubitus ulcer); and
  2. The risk of a fall.

If your loved one is at risk for a pressure injury or fall, you should ask:

  • How great is the risk?
  • What interventions are available to prevent the development of a pressure injury/fall?
  • What interventions have been chosen for my loved one?

These interventions should be identified on the care plan generated for your loved one. Ask the nursing home for a copy of your loved one’s care plan to ensure the interventions discussed are present on the care plan. If the nursing home refuses your request because you are not the guardian, the health care proxy or authorized to receive protected health information, you probably know that person and can ask that person to make the request.

Once you have reviewed the care plan, ask yourself whether it adequately addresses the risk. If not, raise the issue and ask for a meeting with the nursing home to discuss the care plan. If you believe the care plan is adequate, the final question to ask is whether the interventions are being performed. This question is especially important if you are not seeing the interventions performed when you visit or if your loved one tells you the interventions are not being performed.  Because it is unlikely you will be told that the nursing home is failing to provide cares directed by the care plan, you must ask, “Where in the medical record do you document that each intervention is performed?” Some facilities may tell you, “We don’t document those types of cares.” Your response should be, “How do I know the cares are being provided?” The response you receive may tell you a lot about the nursing home and whether it is the right place for your loved one.

If you have any questions, please contact John Wells.

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