Tips on Keeping Tabs with Loved Ones in Nursing Home Care

J.D. O’Gara
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

Are you worried about your loved one, separated from you in a nursing facility at this time?
Audra Noonan, of Millis, Palliative Certified Nurse Practitioner, wants families with loved ones in nursing homes to understand their rights in receiving information from the care facilities to which they entrust their loved ones.
First, she says, “People have the right to request records of a family member at any time. I would be requesting weekly records of vital signs, nursing notes or any physician visits. Do they have a fever? Is their blood pressure normal? Does the nurse see any unusual behaviors? Is there anything I need to know about?”
If the loved one in the nursing home is receiving hospice or palliative care, says Noonan, that’s another check-in on the patient. “You should be touching base with your hospice nurse or palliative provider every time they go into (your loved ones’) facility,” says Noonan.
While checking in and getting updates on your loved one is very important, Noonan advises trying to work with nursing staff at your facility and ask them what the best time of day would be to talk with them for an update.
“In nursing, like with any job, there are certain times of the day that are just the worst time for anybody to call,” she says. Tricky times might be during morning checks or at lunchtime, when staff is busy with patients. “So, there are certain times of the day that are usually better than others,” says Noonan. In some cases, she says, there might be a better contact person with whom to touch base. “Some nursing homes might be setting up a certain person for families to talk to,” she says.
Noonan especially wants families to understand that they have the right to ask for medical records and ask about other things, even whether their facility could provide Facetime or Skype, so that they can better stay in touch with their loved ones.
Working with the facility is important, especially in terms of staffing, which might be even more limited due to illness, says Noonan. “You have to balance care for the patient with giving information.” In the best-case scenario, she says, “You want to try to consolidate and have one person, one point of contact, so that you don’t impede care, but you are still able to get information.”
If you strongly feel the information you do get on your loved one reveals negligence, or you feel the facility is being unreasonable, Noonan explains that families always have the right to report serious issues to the Department of Public Health.
“I do tell people to try to go through the chain of command. If (there’s a problem with a nurse), go to a supervisor. If it’s a problem with that person, try to go to the director of nursing. But if it’s that serious, you want to go to the state. Every nursing home in the state has something called an ombudsman, and that person kind of functions as an advocate within that nursing home, so you can contact them.”
According the Nursing Home Consumer Information page at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ site, ( ), families are encouraged to use this avenue to raise any concerns about their nursing homes with the Long-term Care Ombudsman. “Most often,” it reads, “the facility will be able to begin addressing your concerns immediately and give you information about the facility’s complaint/grievance procedure.”
“Most nursing homes are there to do what’s right for the patients,” says Noonan, “and families and nursing homes need to work together.”