Your Gateway to Senior Resources

   Advocate For Your Senior

When you and your elderly parent are partnering together in their care, it can sometimes feel like it's an “Us against the World” situation. But since the senior citizen you are caring for has little fight left in them, it seems it’s up to you to make sure that your elderly mom or dad get all they have coming. Just because a person becomes a senior citizen, that doesn’t mean their fundamental rights go away. They deserve and should expect to be treated with respect and for those serving them to live up to expectations.

But just as it was before your parent became a senior citizen, a right must be claimed to be a right. So while there is no formal “Senior Citizens Bill of Rights”, there are laws on the books about how nursing homes must treat senior citizens. And even if your mom or dad is in an assisted care facility and not a nursing home, there are some basic expectations that were in that contract and that are fundamentally assumed that the facility will live up to. And it's up to you as the caregiver to make sure they are living up to what is expected of them.

First of all, the facility your senior citizen lives at should be able to provide the basics of safety and cleanliness. Look at the evacuation plan for the facility in the event of a fire or another emergency that would mean getting your parent out of the building. Is it a plan that is clear and is it workable considering the entire facility is full of elderly people who may not move very quickly? And what about emergency power? In the event of an emergency where the power goes off early, is there emergency backup power to operate elevators and automatic doors so everyone can get out? Are there emergency lights in the event of a power outage? Should there be a heating outage (gas, oil, or electrical) is there a contingency plan to ensure the comfort (and survival) of the residents?

If the facility offers food service as part of their package of services, there is a basic expectation that there will be meals made available three times a day, that it will be healthy food and that your parent will never be denied service. It is also not out of line to expect that the food could be delivered to the senior citizen's rooms if your parent is ill or injured. And your parent should be able to get some variety in their diet. If they are not doing a good job of making foods that your parents likes to eat, you should bring it to the attention of staff, first, then management if the situation doesn't improve.

As we mentioned earlier, your parent didn’t lose his or her rights as an individual when they move into an assisted care facility. If your parent is paying to use that apartment, they have a right to live as they please in there. Within certain constraints because they are in a community setting such as keeping noise down after bedtime and the like, your parent should be able to do what he or she wants to do in the privacy of their home without the interference from others in the community or from the staff of the complex. This includes receiving guests, allowing family or friends to sleep over, how the apartment is decorated and what kind of music your parent enjoys.

A right that really cannot be retailed but can be felt dramatically is your parent’s right to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. This is an intangible but how the staff of the facility treat the residents means a lot to your parent when they see these people every day. It's not out of line to expect the staff and management of the facility to know your parents' names and greet them warmly when they come down to eat or go to a social event. 

If the staff of the facility have to work directly with your parent, it should be done respectfully and pleasantly. If your parent reports verbal or emotional abuse going on by the staff, that is cause for you to investigate it and hold that facility to accountability for that problem. 

Remember the old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So if the facility needs to be reminded of their responsibilities, you need to be that squeaky wheel. But remember that most staff and management WANT to do a good job. Most DO respect elders in their charge. When you criticize, be sure of your facts and work up the chain of command from the bottom first. Make sure the actual staff member responsible for the questionable practice is given the opportunity to fix the problem first before taking your complaint to management. No need to make a mountain out of a molehill. But clearly, if your concerns are not being addressed, squeak loud and squeak often so your parent can live in a place where they enjoy their days and feel that this is a place they can genuinely call home.