Achieving quality long-term care

Relocating your loved one to a long-term care home is a difficult, stressful and emotional process. Finding a home that can provide quality care while meeting any necessary social, emotional and practical needs, takes time and tremendous effort. Helping the person adjust to their new home and ensuring that the care they receive is good, are priorities once the move has happened.

As a first step, you should ensure that there is a primary person who can be your contact in the home if a problem arises. If there are concerns at any time, discuss them promptly with facility staff. Be available as much as possible during the settling in phase. Keep in mind that change is scary for all parties involved and there will be an adjustment period. Don’t be afraid to give feedback to staff – but don’t get caught in only telling them when things are wrong. Don’t forget to give praise when it is due and let them know that you appreciate all that they do for your loved one. Take the time to speak to staff when you visit. Find out how the person is adjusting and help the staff get to know their new resident. Share important things about them that will help in the adjustment process; what are their likes and dislikes, hobbies etc. If there are issues of cognitive impairment pass along some coping strategies that work for you. As there are likely several shifts of staff that each need to get to know the person, you may want to post some information on the wall/room bulletin board or on a side table that will help them work with your loved one.

During your visits you may want to observe interactions between staff and residents to ascertain if residents are treated in a respectful way and if needs are met with care and kindness. Don’t forget to seek feedback from your loved one about how things are going. In the early days it might be a bit difficult to determine if complaints are related to adjustment or actual problems with the operation of the home. That being said, it’s important not to discount any concerns that are related to care and comfort. You may need to be present to observe the situations in question or gently approach staff to discuss issues in a non-threatening way.

The most important factor in determining quality of care in any care setting is the staff. You can determine this easily if you take the time to watch and listen during your visits. Get to know other residents and their families/regular visitors. Developing relationships with both staff and residents will ensure that if there are issues, you are notified of them. Focus on the food quality, cleanliness and staff attitude. Join a Family Council if there is one. If you have the time, participate in activities in the residence. This is a way to help your loved on adjust while creating opportunities for you to get to know people who live and work there. Request regular meetings to review any issues – attend all meetings that are arranged and if possible ensure your loved one participates in these meetings if they are able.

For caregivers who struggle with having to relocate someone to long-term care, it is important to keep in mind that you are still a caregiver even if you are not doing the same tasks you were doing in the past. The way that you ‘give care’ has changed but your new role is equally important and tremendously necessary. Let your loved one know that you are always available for them and will do your best to ensure that they receive the best care possible in their new home.