5 Nursing home tips for staying involved with your loved one

It's important that a nursing home offers the services you or your loved one requires.

It's important that a nursing home offers the services you or your loved one requires.

More than 1.4 million Americans live in nursing homes, but half of them never receive visitors.  For families of nursing home residents, there are several things they can do to ensure that a loved one has proper care.

Visit regularly

The best way to stay involved in your loved one's care is to visit often. Your family member will look forward to your visits. Visiting (especially unannounced) is also the best way for you to assess whether proper care is being provided. If you have any concerns, bring them to a staff member's attention during the visit.

The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 ensures that family members can stay involved with their loved one's care and can visit at any time without scheduling an appointment.  However, if you come at a late hour or during activities, be respectful of other patients.

If you live out of town and can't visit often, send frequent letters and pictures to stay in touch. When you call, ask to speak to a nurse to check on your loved one's care and current medical needs.

If you can, try to schedule visits at different times. Your loved one may act differently at different times of the day. Try to schedule visits on different days with other family members, so that your loved one will have company to look forward to on a regular basis.

One technique is to keep a guest book in the patient's room and ask all visitors to sign it. This is a fun keepsake for the resident, and it also helps a family keep track of who visited and when.

Some nursing homes schedule events for the entire family, especially around the holidays. Take advantage of these events to spend more time with your loved one and have fun as a family. Ask the staff for a monthly event schedule so you can plan to attend these functions in advance.

In a recent Angie's List member review of a Seattle nursing home, one family member praised the facility's open door policy regarding family visits at all hours and noted that  "caregivers are very loving, with much interaction, without being intrusive. Overall, we are very pleased with this facility."

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