Long-Term Care: Family & Caregiver Teamwork is Vital

There may come a time when your beloved aged & infirm family member just cannot take care of their basic needs for daily living any more. They cannot get themselves safely in and out of bed or chair; cannot bathe themselves; are starting to trip and fall; need help getting to the bathroom; can no longer obtain and prepare food; or can no longer remember how to do basic things or how to ask for help or whether they are in pain. This is when it’s time to get a good care plan in place.

It’s safest to set up more care rather than less — for example,  if a person is a “fall risk” due to confusion and poor stability or poor strength in their legs and ankles, perhaps they should never be left unattended. Similarly, a person with substantial short term memory  impairment who could not pick up the phone to call for help or remember why they are wearing an alarm button on a chain should probably never be left unattended. There are many companies a family can choose from to provide trained and certified home health aides in the home. The Medicaid program can provide up to 40 hours a week of care in the home for low-income individuals who have less than $2,000 in available assets — clearly just a part-time program. No matter what, the care plan still needs family participation. Even when the family isn’t delivering the “hands-on care,” someone still needs to be checking in on the elder to make sure that the level of personal care, nutrition and hygiene is sufficient. Dropping in at random intervals will help ensure that standards are being met.

Even when nursing home care is required, it is vital that the family stay involved to keep an eye on the care being delivered — as the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,”  and given the reportedly low levels of nurses’ aide staffing in New Jersey’s nursing homes — see recent reports by the AARP and SCAN Foundation, as reported by the Star-Ledger on June 19, 2014 – http://www.longtermscorecard.org  and http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/06  — the family needs to see their loved one regularly to make sure that their physical and emotional health are maintained. The patient’s designated health care representative should arrange for periodic care plan meetings and to see the chart as well — just make sure that proper HIPPA releases have been signed in advance.

When the nurses’ aides provide the care and the family provides the oversight and coordination, the elder receives extra protection which is beneficial to the quality of their life.

To review the national 2013 survey go to www.cdc.gov and look for long_term_care_services_2013.pdf .

For advice on constructing a long-term care plan and addressing issues with nursing home staff, call us at 732-382-6070

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