Most of another, or us, at one time, know someone who has to spend time in a long-term care facility. It could be an aging parent, a friend or you yourself. These places are called “rehab”, nursing homes, long-term care homes or skilled nursing facilities. What makes them different from other places where those recovering from surgery or medical events go is that skilled services are available daily. Skilled services can include nursing, physical, occupational and speech therapy and other outsourced specialists who can visit the home.
As one might know about our healthcare system, in general, is that it can be very disjointed, with poor communication among service providers. This can lead to unsatisfactory care or even harm to a resident. Vulnerable residents who can’t speak for themselves are at particular risk. What can the family member or friend do about this?
One option most don’t hear about is to ask for a “care conference”. This must be done at the family or resident’s request and the facility is required to make this available. They likely won’t tell you this, but now you know. I recently made such a request for a disabled brother in a rehab facility who had suffered a heart attack and needed therapy in his recovery. The different therapists there apparently did not talk to each other or read the record. My brother had had a stroke a few years earlier and his speech is impaired. The speech therapist that I’d spoken to a few weeks prior to the conference did not read the record and had seen my brother without knowing that he had impaired speech from a prior stroke! That set off alarm bells. Besides educating him, I realized that a care conference would be needed to get all the people involved together in one room so that all understood my brother’s problems and the rehabilitation goals more clearly.
We set up a time and date for the conference. I asked for all the therapies to be represented, along with the nurse in charge. I flew into town to attend and met another relative on site, one who lived closer and visited more often. A general care review was done and we, the family made suggestions and requests. The staff were cooperative. They needed to understand my brother’s personality and his history, what he historically could do and not do and how he went about things. My hope was that the care conference would correct the ineffective approach some staff were taking and help them be of better service to my brother, who could not communicate very well.
Follow up will include holding them accountable for what happens and to stay on top of meeting his needs as well as possible. We do that with regular phone calls to the charge nurse whose job it is to coordinate care.
The takeaway is that anyone with a loved one in a care facility for rehab needs to know that you have a right to ask about and question care as well as to offer input. One way to do so is by requesting a care conference. You can learn and the staff can learn from you. It is a way of addressing the fragmented communication you are likely to find in any of these facilities. Do not hesitate to exercise this right. It can make a difference. If you’re not sure where to get started and need some help, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation.
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