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Gainesville Florida Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Monday, July 29, 2019

Advocating for Your Loved One in a Nursing Home

One of the biggest challenges occurs when your loved one is no longer able to live on their own or with you and instead has to move to a care facility.

While this change is always hard for the person whose living situation is changing, it may be equally challenging for the caregiver. There are a number of emotions and fears when you first have to leave your loved one in the care of a stranger 24/7.

The biggest concern for a caregiver is often who will advocate for your family member if you are not there to speak for them all day every day. Among the caregiver fears, especially if your loved one cannot speak for themselves, is whether they will become a victim of abuse.

The good news is that the vast majority of facilities locally and across the country are safe – offering a warm and protective environment. But that’s not always the case.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) provides a variety of useful resources for families to find the right nursing home or assisted living facility (ALF) for their loved one.

If you want a list of ALFs locally or around the state, you can click here. If you want to compare ALFs, this can be the perfect guide.

Regarding nursing homes, AHCA provides this valuable information.

So, the first step for a family caregiver is to carefully evaluate the facility. Obviously, you need to visit in person – even if that means a trip across the country. Look around carefully and ask a lot of questions. If the facility personnel seem put off by your examination and inquiries, that may be a sign that this is not the right place for your loved one.

You should ask about the quality of the facility’s management. Find out about training for staff, volunteers and vendors. Make sure they all undergo criminal background checks.

If you are uncertain after getting all your answers, you may want to look for another facility.

Your job is not done after your loved one is in their new residence. Unfortunately, you must always be vigilant for signs of physical abuse or if they withdraw from social activities or stop interacting with other people. Another sign of potential problems is whether their sleep changes. Of course, you need to try to determine if those changes are due to a new location or some other issue.

Your loved ones have rights in a nursing home or other facility. If a nursing home receives funds from Medicaid – nearly all do – then there are federal laws and regulations regarding  the management of the facility. Florida also has laws to protect your loved one. You need to become familiar with these rules and regulations.

Under federal law, when two or more relatives of nursing-home residents meet, the facility is required to give them a place to meet. They also must respond to their recommendations or concerns within a certain time period. These “family councils” can be powerful tools. If a facility knows that family members are active advocates, they will have more incentive to provide proper care or their residents.

These state and federal laws include regulators and agencies that you can go to if you feel there are problems.

And it is often the case that the facility where your loved one lives is more responsive and helpful if they know you are there as an advocate.



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