Family and Resident Councils at Nursing Homes

People who live in nursing homes have the right to create and participate in resident groups. These groups usually consist of family councils and resident councils. The organizations can discuss whatever they choose, including things like problems at the facility and the quality of care. For an overview of family and resident councils at nursing homes, read on.

The Need for Family and Resident Councils

If you feel alone and powerless when dealing with situations at a nursing home, a family or resident council can give you a united voice with other residents and their loved ones. You can discuss problems and find out how widespread the situation is. The council can communicate concerns to the administrators of the nursing home. For significant issues or if the facility does not make improvements, you can take your complaints to the long-term care ombudsman.

Every state has a long-term care ombudsman. When a resident or family council reaches out to the ombudsman, the impact can be more powerful than if a lone individual contacts the office.

A well-run facility will welcome a family or resident council and work with them to make improvements that benefit the residents and the staff. Family members have a safe place to constructively vent their anger about problems, instead of filing a formal complaint at the first sign of a concern. The facility can obtain honest feedback, so it can make continuous improvements.

The Rights of Family and Resident Councils in Nursing Homes

Under federal law, staff members can only attend a council meeting by invitation. Federal law also guarantees that family members of a resident can meet with the families of other residents in the nursing home. The facility must designate a staff member to respond to written requests that come out of the family meetings.

The facility must provide private space for the family group to meet. If family members fear their loved ones who live in the nursing home might receive retaliation because the family member participates in the council, the meetings can take place off-site at a mutually-agreeable location.

The family council may write up grievances and recommendations on how to resolve the problems. The facility must listen to the council and take appropriate action, in response to the grievances and recommendations of the council. The council can recommend changes in the facility’s policies and operational decisions. If the family council is not satisfied with the nursing home’s response, the council can contact the state’s ombudsman for long-term care.

Some of the rights only apply to facilities that have Medicare or Medicaid certification. It does not matter whether the individual resident or any current resident receives Medicare or Medicaid funding. Once these programs certify a long-term care facility, the nursing home must comply with the applicable rules, which include a list of rights for nursing home residents.

Some councils fall apart because families lack the time to participate. Some strategies that can address this common problem include:

  • Start meetings on time.
  • Every meeting should also have a stated end time. If people want to stay after the meeting and visit, they should have the option. However, when the meeting’s business items conclude or you reach the stated end time, conclude the meeting. People who do not want to stay afterward are then free to go about their business.
  • Have a written agenda and stick to it.
  • Have a place for “new business” and “old business” on the agenda.

It will take some dedication, but family and resident councils can go a long way toward creating a positive, cooperative environment, in which nursing home residents receive quality care.

You might want to talk to an elder law attorney in your area about the ways your state’s regulations vary from the general law of this article.

References:

National Consumer Voice. “Family and Resident Councils.” (accessed August 15, 2019) https://ltcombudsman.org/issues/family-and-resident-councils

Social Security Scams Continuing to Steal From Victims

Con artists are always developing new scams, and while Social Security is their primary bait right now, don’t be surprised if they switch to a new tactic. One critical thing to be aware of: Social Security will send you a letter, if there is any kind of problem with your account, says Forbes in the article “Beat The Latest Scams to Steal Your Identity and Social Security Benefits.” You will never get a phone call from Social Security demanding that you purchase gift cards.

Not so long ago, scammers were telling their victims that they were from the IRS and needed immediate payment. That scam, which was traced to call centers in India, is now greatly reduced and many of the perpetrators have been arrested.

However, every time one scam gets shut down, two others spring up to take its place.

The Social Security scam is hitting cities and towns nationwide. The caller says that the person’s Social Security number has been suspended due to fraudulent activity involving the number. The scammer says that the person being called must take immediate action to have their number reinstated.

Sometimes the caller is belligerent and nasty. Other times, a softer tone is taken, and the caller says they need only to confirm the person’s Social Security number, because the computers are down and their help is needed, so the account is not suspended. Another scam comes in via email, requesting that the person click on a link and follow the instructions to provide their Social Security number.

Regardless of the form of contact or the approach, the scammer’s goal is to get your Social Security number, other personal information and gift card numbers that are swiftly transformed into cash.

The Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have both advised that neither organization will call or email people under either of these circumstances. If Social Security finds a problem, you’ll receive a letter.

Social Security does send emails from time to time to remind people to review their benefits statements and check to make sure their earnings history is correct. These emails only arrive, if you have established a “my Social Security” account on the government website.

To be safe, don’t click on any links from any emails about Social Security. The email address, just like the caller ID on your phone, could be spoofed. To check your earnings history, go to the Social Security website on your own computer. You can also call the local Social Security office, or the national 800-number.

Another scam can occur, if spammers do get your Social Security number, which sadly is available for sale online. They will open your “my Social Security” account in your name and change the address and the financial account where benefits are deposited. If you aren’t already receiving benefits, they apply for your benefits and have them directed into the scammer’s accounts. It’s best to open up a “my Social Security” account of your own, even if you don’t plan on collecting benefits for several years.

On that account, you’ll be able to check your benefits, earnings history, and see if anyone else has applied for benefits in your name or tried to change the financial account where your benefits are deposited. It’s a good idea to log into your account every few months to see if there’s been any activity, especially if you are at least 62 and don’t plan on applying for benefits for a while.

Reference: Forbes (August 14, 2019) “Beat The Latest Scams to Steal Your Identity and Social Security Benefits.”

Can You Estate Plan Like George Washington?

Estate planning for those you love can dramatically change your family for generations. Did you know that in his last will and testament of 1799, George Washington detailed his vision for his legacy? He bequeathed the “use, profit, and benefit” of his whole estate to his “dearly beloved wife Martha Washington.” In addition, he forgave the debts of many of his family members, financed the establishment of a school for orphans, set aside stock for what’s now Washington and Lee University and made arrangements to care for other loved ones.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Smart Tips for Estate Planning: Write Your Will Like George Washington Did” reports that Washington’s estate plan was more than 5,500 words—the equivalent of nine single-spaced pages.

While your estate planning may not require the same degree of detail, there is an important lesson to be learned from Washington: his writing was personal and captured his exact situation at the time and laid out his future vision. Hopefully, your own estate plan will have the same personalization. However, remember that estate planning isn’t limited to a single legal document.

It is imperative for both spouses to have a good working knowledge of a family’s intentions. Both spouses should participate in drafting the documents to avoid unforeseen complications during stressful times. It is also good for both spouses to be comfortable with the family’s financial adviser, attorney and accountant. In addition, communicating the estate plan to the couple’s children is essential.

Of course, not every spouse will take an eager interest in estate planning, and not every child will want to see the detailed disposition of assets. If this happens to you, put in place a basic protocol, such as “call our estate planning attorney.”

In addition to your last will and testament, you may want to think about a “personal statement of intent” or a “letter of wishes” within your own legacy design. This document works in concert with your will to provide your heirs with a deeper level of personalization and explanation of your rationales. This document is non-binding and typically is accessible only to the people you stipulate, such as your executor, trustee and heirs. A personal statement of intent can help to clarify the rationale behind the provisions of your will.

As you consider your estate plan, think of George and remember the foundational values of communication, clarity and customization.

Reference: Kiplinger (August 9, 2019) “Smart Tips for Estate Planning: Write Your Will Like George Washington Did”