One thing we know for sure about our elder clients is that they are at a higher-than-average risk for sudden and significant changes in health. Events like a fall, the need for an unplanned surgery, or a serious flare-up of cardiac, pulmonary, or circulatory system problems may mean that a previously mobile, independent person will require 24/7 care for a period of time. With hospital stays being so short, rehabilitation provided in a skilled nursing facility may be a necessary step between acute care and returning home. Families need to be aware that even when their loved one is placed in the best of facilities, some things might get overlooked. Here are some insights I’ve gained as care coordinator with Elder Law of East Tennessee that I hope will help you make a substantial difference in the kind and quality of care your loved one receives.
Be a resource. Don’t assume that the medical information provided to the care facility by the hospital will paint a complete picture of what has transpired prior to the rehabilitation admission. Furthermore, remember that facility staff don’t have the benefit a long-standing relationship with your loved one. They may not recognize subtle but significant changes in behavior or functioning. Let them know if there are particular or less obvious issues with your loved one’s hearing, vision, mobility, or ability to take medications, eat, get to the toilet, etc.
Be prepared to hire or supply additional caregiving support. Facilities are not equipped to give one-on-one care around the clock. If your loved one suffers from dementia, is prone to falls, becomes agitated, or attempts to move about in ways that constitute a risk of an accident or injury, additional help may be required. Check with the facility social worker for supplemental care provider contact information.
Be an advocate. If you notice something going on that you don’t understand or that doesn’t seem to be in your loved one’s best interest, ask questions. Staff are usually more than willing to make adjustments for the benefit of their residents and are grateful for families who actively participate in the care planning process.
Be realistic. Rehabilitation treatment is relatively short-term. Medicare fully covers the cost of the first 20 days and a small portion of the cost from day 21 through day 100. Therefore, planning the care your loved one will need once the rehabilitation goals have been met starts on the day of admission. One of the best things you can do is to observe therapy sessions and talk frequently to the therapy staff to get an idea of what kind of progress your loved one is making. Take advantage of the staff’s expertise and let them help you decide what level of care or what kind of equipment will be needed for the future.
Finally, I want to encourage all caregivers to be kind to themselves. It can’t be said too much that even when caregiving is rooted in the deepest love, it is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. The uncertainty of treatment outcomes and future care needs can be unsettling to say the least. Elder Law of East Tennessee can help lighten the burden by making sure you have the advice you need and the care your loved one deserves.