Ask Miriam – February 2022

Published On: February 1st, 2022Categories: Ask Miriam
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Dear Miriam,

My dad, who was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, recently moved into a nursing home. He had been hospitalized due to a fall that fractured his hip, and the hospital said that he would need to go to the nursing home for rehab. Unfortunately, he is going to have to stay there because I am not able to manage his care now that he is so fragile. But I am worried. I haven’t been able to visit in over a month due to COVID and talking by phone just confuses him. I also know they are using adult diapers rather than taking him to the bathroom even though he still has control over his bladder. I really miss him. I am afraid of making the staff angry if I complain. What should I do? How do I get help?

—Worried Son

Dear Worried Son,

I know how hard it is for families with a loved one in a nursing home or other care facility, especially during the pandemic. Not being able to visit can increase your level of distress since it’s harder to know how your dad is doing.

It is important to bring up your concerns with the staff at the nursing home. You can request a “plan of care” meeting in which you, the social worker, the administrator, and the nurse meet to discuss how to best care for him. Set some short-term goals that are realistic, such as a toileting schedule. Discuss a plan for communication with your dad (perhaps through a tablet or smart phone assisted by a staff member). Plan for a follow-up meeting to assess how things are going.

However, if you continue to feel that your dad’s needs are not being met, it may be time to contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Every facility is required to have the contact information for the Ombudsman posted in the front lobby. Their role is to advocate for the patients and to ensure that they are safe and properly cared for. In addition, if there are any concerns regarding abuse or neglect, they investigate those too. Involving the Ombudsman may sound scary, but they can help ensure that the nursing home responds appropriately.

Finally, you also have the option to move your dad to a different nursing home. This may take some research and visiting different facilities, but consult with your doctor to assist with a smooth transfer. And make sure that you are also taking care of yourself during this time. Even though you are not providing the hands-on care, caregiving can continue to be a stressful experience.

Alzheimer’s Los Angeles has a caregiver support group especially for caregivers who have a loved one in a facility. Visit our support groups page for details.


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