Family Advocacy in Long-Term Care

The decision to move into a long-term care or assisted living facility is one that requires thought and preparation. Taking steps to choose the facility most likely to meet your loved one’s needs, is necessary work for a positive long-term care experience. 

Necessary work includes acts of advocacy done in preparation for long term care placement, and while your loved one is residing in long-term care.

The three stages of long-term care family advocacy are

Stage 1:  Advocate by assisting loved ones, as they wish, to take the steps to choose a facility that meets their needs and preferences.
  • Assist  your loved one as needed to call and request facility information to better narrow down the options.
  • Together as appropriate, review basic amenities, cost, staffing ratio, dining, resident rooms, does facility accept Medicaid if needed in the future or long-term care insurance? Can you stay at the facility should you transition to Medicaid, and would you have to share a room once on Medicaid?  Does the facility allow visitation, or compassionate caregivers. 
  • Encourage your loved one to choose 2-3 facilities to visit.  Assist to set appointments and walk through the facility, schedule to eat a meal, visit with the staff and meet the administrator.  The administrator sets the atmosphere for the facility.  Listen to the volume level of the facility, does the facility have strong unpleasant odors?  Is the facility clean and orderly and are the staff friendly and welcoming or rushed and inpatient?
  • Discuss with your loved one what they liked and did not like in each facility.  If one of the facilities appears to meet their needs and preferences and they are willing to accept your assistance, then assist them to choose a facility.

Stage 2: Advocate for and create a positive move-in experience.
  • Plan ahead to create a more orderly experience.
  • Visit the new room prior to move-in day.
  • Make the room homelike and comfortable for your loved one.  Having some personal belongings, they would like around them can make the transition a more pleasant experience.
  • Introductions to staff assisting with the move-in and to those who  will be working with your loved one is important.
  • Assist to inventory all items being brought into the facility to include hearing aids, dentures, jewelry, clothing—everything.
  • Offer to assist your loved one to get settled or if they are tired, set a time to come and assist to organize their things at a later time.
  • Request a locked drawer if your loved one has items they would feel better having locked up.
  • Learn when Resident Council and Family Council Meetings are and where they are held.

Stage 3:  Be actively involved with your loved one during their stay in the facility of their choice.  Residents whose family are involved receive better care.
  • Know your loved one’s rights and educate them so they will be able to voice expectations for care with informed confidence.
  • If the facility is not allowing visitation due to an outbreak of infection request to visit with your loved one via, zoom, even if it is just to lay eyes on them and let them know you care.
  • Participate in Family Council and if one is not formed in the facility speak with your loved one and with their support create  a council in their facility.  Ombudsmen are willing to assist in the development of councils.
  • Know who your advocates are and how to contact them- Ombudsmen are formally trained advocates that can help when family efforts aren’t enough.

Visit the Idaho Commission on Aging website for additional information and services to help older Idahoan’s age with safety and dignity.