Being a Good Advocate: Things to Check When Visiting Your Elderly Loved One

eletAs an Elder Care Coordinator, part of my job is to teach the families of my clients how to be good advocates. This is especially important if the client is living or receiving treatment in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Even if the facility and its staff are fantastic, they cannot know the client as well as his or her family do, so some seemingly small details which make a big difference in the elderly person’s life may slip through the cracks. This is why it is important for family members or other caregivers from outside the facility to make frequent visits, especially when their loved one first moves into the facility, and keep a careful eye out for any warning signs of problems or oversights in the elderly person’s care.

Here are some specific things to check when you visit your loved one in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Ideally, these will be checked during each visit. Make a point of visiting at different times, and be sure you visit at least once during each shift at the facility so that you become familiar with all of the staff who are seeing to the needs of your loved one.


  • Cleanliness and proper maintenance of facility
  • Cleanliness, proper grooming, and appropriate dress of the resident – includes oral hygiene and proper maintenance of nails
  • Resident’s posture, flexibility, ease of movement, and degree of interest in activities
  • Condition of resident’s skin (check for dryness, tears, red spots, and changes in color)
  • Changes in resident’s breathing
  • Swelling in resident’s feet, ankles, arms, etc.
  • Changes in resident’s weight
  • Changes in resident’s medications, especially if he or she has recently been prescribed antipsychotic medication (Be sure the medical staff are consulting with you about the reasons for changes in medications and whether or not other methods of treatment were attempted first.)


In addition to monitoring the above items during every visit, I encourage the families of my clients to perform a weekly check to see if the resident’s clothes are in need of any repairs and to see if any clothes or other personal possessions need re-labeling. Once or twice a month you should attend the facility’s family council meeting to stay informed about any changes being made at the facility and to voice any suggestions or concerns of your own.

To help you keep track of all this, take a look at the Advocate’s Checklist I provide to the families of my clients. It gives some more details about why you should check each of these things and what conditions some symptoms might indicate. For more information about how to provide proper care for your loved one in an assisted living facility or nursing home, or other details of caring for an elderly loved one, get in touch.


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