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

How Will Baby Boomers Handle “Long-Term Caregiving?

Think Advisor’s article, “Long-Term Caregiving Realities Hit Home for Boomers” says that study participants responded that they’d be willing to do these things to provide care for a loved one:

  • Cut spending: 66%
  • Travel less frequently: 41%
  • Move to a new home: 27%
  • Work less: 27%
  • Stop working: 19%

The study also found that boomers are becoming more aware of the likelihood they’ll require retirement care, and are willing to discuss the issue. This group believed that an adult would start to need physical care or assistance at age 70 or older.

About 45% of study participants thought they’d need long-term care at some point. That number is an increase from 36% in 2013. A total of 66% of them reported that they’d had detailed conversations about how they wanted to receive long-term care. Slightly more than half said they’d had detailed conversations about how to pay for care.

Even so, about 30% of boomers in the study who were caregivers said they still had to use some retirement savings to pay for health care expenses, compared with 19% of those without caregiving responsibilities.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that older Americans are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history by 2035. This raises the question of who’ll care for the aging population.

It was no surprise that the study found that women were likelier than men to have caregiving experience. 62% of current or former caregivers among study participants were women and 38% were men. A total of 68% of those with caregiving experience said they knew about long-term care insurance, compared with 59% without such experience.

Experienced caregivers were also more likely than inexperienced boomers to have made preparations for their death. This includes communicating funeral preferences (49% vs. 41%), identifying where they wanted to be buried or cremated (51% vs. 37%) and maintaining an up-to-date estate plan (45% vs. 38%).

Reference: Think Advisor (August 8, 2019) “Long-Term Caregiving Realities Hit Home for Boomers”

Advance Planning Key for Alzheimer’s Patients

A retired physician and his wife have allowed a local television station to report their family’s journey with Alzheimer’s over the course of the last four years. The series continues with WCCO CBS Minnesota’s article “’All Lined Up Before You Need It’: Alzheimer’s Association Shares Steps for Estate Planning,” with four steps to take, if you notice that a family member is having memory lapses or trouble with simple tasks.

The Quinn family—Dr. Paul Quinn and his wife Peg—had some tough conversations years ago, when Paul’s memory was better, and when he was able to be completely honest with his wife about his wishes and what the couple would need to do moving forward.

Peg Quinn said that getting everything lined up long before it’s needed, is very important.

If there’s any sign of cognitive decline, there are legal and financial steps that must be pursued. Start with addressing the family budget and projected medical costs for long term care. If possible, gather all family members together for a planning session.

If they live in different parts of the state, or of the country, ask the family members to travel for a weekend family meeting. This is the kind of planning that is better when everyone is physically present.

Start by naming a power of attorney. It needs to be someone who is aware of the situation and will be able to make decisions on your behalf. An estate planning attorney can assist with making this decision.

Next, establish an advance directive with a focus on medical decisions. This may be the toughest part, since it is impossible to know how long someone will live with Alzheimer’s. The average patient lives four to eight years, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The cost of care can add up fast—as much as $5,000 to $7,000 a month in some cases.

That’s why the next step—selecting an elder law estate planning attorney is so important. Planning for long-term care, qualifying for Medicaid and other benefits, is a complex challenge.

Dr. Quinn expressed his wishes to stay in his home as long as possible. However, his wife admits that he can’t stay focused on any projects for very long. The familiarity of their home makes life much easier for both of them, so they agreed early on to have in-home care, if it’s ever needed.

An estate planning attorney will help the family, by drafting estate planning documents and creating a plan as early as possible. A last will and testament must be created and executed before the person is legally incompetent. The same goes for a power of attorney and any health care power of attorney documents. Medicaid planning should be done as soon as possible, since there is a five-year look back period concerning transferring any assets.

Reference: WCCO CBS Minnesota (July 23, 2019) “’All Lined Up Before You Need It’ : Alzheimer’s Association Shares Steps for Estate Planning”