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My Mother Doesn't Like Her Nursing Home

5 rules for handling common problems and complaints

4. Don't miss important meetings.

Attend the annual or quarterly staff review of your family member's care plan. You can use this opportunity to raise concerns and questions with the people who care directly for your family member. Aides spend more time than anyone with residents, so be sure to listen to what they say about what your family member needs. Make sure the staff knows that you want to attend the reviews and need advance notice for meeting times.

However, you need to raise a red flag if you find a serious problem.

5. Observe, note and report serious lapses in care.

Your family member may be unaware of or unable to communicate the most serious problems — those about quality of care. Many common examples are apparent, such as bedsores, neglect of personal hygiene, weight loss and lack of attention to an illness or obvious deterioration. If your family member is in physical restraints or seems overmedicated, those, too, are alarming signs.

You should first speak to the nurses and doctor if there appears to be a problem. If you are not satisfied with their responses, call the nursing home ombudsman in your area. Ombudsmen are trained to resolve problems in quality of care, as well as suggest ways to manage other non-life-threatening issues. Any sign of physical, sexual or verbal abuse should be reported immediately to the nursing home administration, an ombudsman and your state's department of health.

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An estimated 42 percent of working Americans say they've provided care for an older family member within the past five years. Some of the lucky ones can benefit from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

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