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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

Nursing Homes Lack Oversight

 

Most seniors will emphatically state that they do not want to spend their last months or years of life in a nursing home. It would be perfect if we could live our lives fully, free of illness, have enough money to enjoy our “golden years” and pass away in our sleep. Obviously this is ideal but in truth most seniors will spend their final months or days in a nursing home or hospital or, at the very least, will spend a period of time in a nursing home. Given the facts, it behooves seniors and their families to develop a plan around the possibility that a stay in a nursing home may occur and take the time to learn at least the basics of the nursing care industry.

 

In an Associated Press article, “Report: Oversight of nursing home chains lacking,” run by the Sacramento Bee and republished by the Monterey Herald on Monday, November 10, indicates that oversight and regulation of the 1,260 nursing homes in California presents a challenge for the California Department of Health. A closer look at the issue indicates that perhaps regulation may not be as big a problem as transparency of the Department of Health’s findings.

 

Irrespective of whether the California Department of Health and other local, state and federal organizations are doing a good job in overseeing the industry providing services to some of our most vulnerable society members, we should do our own research and educate ourselves on how the industry works and this way, if we are forced to partake of such services, we will be knowledgeable enough to protect ourselves or a parent.

 

First, do not wait until there is a medical crisis to get educated about the different care facilities available. California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, www.canhr.org, is an excellent starting point to learn about the options available. CANHR is a not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to informing the public about assisted and skilled nursing facilities; the group also runs campaigns to advocate against things like the misuse of psychotropic drugs in nursing homes. The site offers a quick overview of facilities by county and, maybe most importantly, pending and historical violations committed by facilities. 

 

A few things to keep in mind include what to sign and what not to sign when checking in and actions you can take to protect yourself or a loved one while in a nursing home. Most contracts we sign today include an agreement to use arbitration to settle a dispute arising from the services. In the case of a nursing home or residential care facility – never agree to arbitrate. The facility cannot deny you entry if you refuse to sign an arbitration agreement and, by not signing it, you retain all of your rights should you or your loved one suffer any abuse or neglect at the facility.

 

While you or a loved one is in the facility, ask for copies of the care records from time to time and just file them away. If a dispute arises later, you will already have records in hand and this is an important piece when making a claim.

 

Finally, consider forming a “Family Council” at the facility. A Family Council is a group of family members from a number of patients that agree to meet regularly to discuss mutual concerns and come up with shared solutions. If you are unable to get a family council together at least form a buddy system with another patient’s family members and agree to look in on one another’s loved ones when their own family is away.

 

Read about facilities and research the ones that you may need in the future – hopefully you will never need them but if you do, at least you are informed.   

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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