Family caregivers will be relieved to know that the most common complaints of nursing home residents are not dramatic. According to the Institute for the Advancement of Senior Care, the five most typical complaints are:
1. no one answers the call button, 2. the food tastes bad, 3. the mechanized devices that lift patients in and out of beds are scary, 4.) it's too noisy at night, and 5.) residents feel socially isolated.
If a senior person seems to be suffering inordinately in a nursing home, family members should act immediately, of course. Medicare.gov recommends filing a complaint with the State Survey Agency online or by phone, mail or fax.
If an elderly loved one complains that the call button is never answered, it is wise for family caregivers to check the staff-to-resident ratio. They may need to move the elderly loved one to a better staffed facility.
A warning sign of a too-low staff-to-resident ratio may be signs that a loved one is suffering from bedsores or muscle weakness. This may indicate that the elderly person is not being moved enough. Another indicator is how stressed the staff seems to be.
Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes require certain staff-to-resident ratios. States often have more stringent requirements. However, according to ElderLawAnswers, most nursing homes do not maintain even the federal standards.
Don't be afraid to visit the kitchen. Just knowing that family caregivers are poking into things there can help a nursing home improve its performance. Family caregivers should be kind but persistent in expressing an interest in the menu.
Bringing in fare like whole grain breads, soups, salads, and fruits can help supplement tasteless institutional fare. Treating the staff to homemade food can also help improve relationships.
Some nursing homes use mechanized lifts to get residents in and out of beds. Entrusting a frail, elderly body to a machine can be terrifying. To ease the way, family caregivers may request that the patient lift be demonstrated, including trying the device themselves. The family caregiver can then talk about the experience with the elderly person. Making staff aware of the elderly person's discomfort with the lift and requesting extra care and time may help.
Staff-to-resident ratios are almost always lower at night. Family caregivers may want to consider hiring an overnight personal sitter for their loved one. Such a hire could kill several birds with the same stone. A person appearing at the nurse's station will most likely get a response. Someone on hand when the patient is lifted into the bed for the night can be an extra comfort. What is more, having someone there to ask another resident to turn down a TV or lights, or to stop speaking loudly, is a big help. The elderly person may sleep more soundly just knowing someone is there for him or her. An alternative is for family caregivers to spend some overnights at the home themselves.
Nursing home residents often feel isolated from others. Fellow residents may be infirm, demented, or depressed. Still, an elderly loved one in a nursing home should be encouraged to make friends.
Family caregivers themselves can make friends with the paid caregivers in the facility. Although often overworked and underpaid, many of these aides feel affection for their charges. A study by Berdes and Eckert found that many health aides use the word "love" to describe their relationships with those they are responsible for.
If family members cultivate good relationships with these kindly persons, it is more likely the paid caregivers will build a personal relationship with the elderly person and encourage social connections.
The Gerontologist, 47(3): 340-349. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17565097. Accessed February 24, 2017.
ElderLawAnswers.com. What Nursing Home Staff Levels Are Required? ElderLawAnswers.com, May 1, 2013. Available at http://www.elderlawanswers.com/what-nursing-home-staff-levels-are-required-6496. Accessed February 24, 2017.
IAdvanceSeniorCare, Top Five Resident Complaints about Nursing Homes and What to Do about Them. Institute for the Advancement of Senior Care. Available at http://www.iadvanceseniorcare.com/article/top-five-resident-complaints-about-nursing-homes-and-what-do-about-them. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Laurell, Shelley. (April 2, 2015). How Private Caregivers Can Assist Older Adults in a Care Facility. Griswold Home Care. Available at http://www.griswoldhomecare.com/blog/how-private-caregivers-can-assist-older-adults-in-care-facility/. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Medicare.gov. Nursing Home Compare. Available at https://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/Resources/State-Websites.html. Accessed February 23, 2017.