When you’re looking for a nursing home for your parents, you know you need to ask questions but you may not know exactly which ones. I recently asked a group of women who’ve gone through the care-finding process what questions they’d be sure to ask if they did it again. Among their suggestions was to find out exactly how your parents’ doctor visits will be managed.
Who keeps track of appointments?
If your parents move to a nursing home, the staff will work with them, you, and your parents’ doctor to develop a plan of care. This plan requires health assessments at least every 90 days, even if there’s no change in your parents’ health status. Appointments should be part of this plan of care, and if your parents permit it, you’ll be kept in the loop by the nursing home and the doctor.
How are off-site medical visits handled?
If your parents have appointments with doctors who can’t come to them, who arranges their transportation, and who handles billing? Who will go with your parents, and will that person take notes and update the plan of care? If you can’t attend and no one from the facility can go, you may need to hire a CNA from a senior care agency to go along and record information on your parents’ behalf.
What staff is onsite?
Nursing homes should have an attending physician on call (although not necessarily on site) who regularly checks on the residents in his or her care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recommend asking if the home has an RN on site for at least 8 hours every day, plus licensed nursing staff on site around the clock in addition to certified nursing assistants.
Is it necessary to change doctors?
Many residents switch their care to the attending physician at the nursing home for convenience. However, nursing home patients have the right – outlined clearly in Medicare’s rights and protections – to “be involved in the choice of your doctor” and “to participate in decisions that affect your care.”
Who will keep you updated if you can’t accompany your parent?
This can be a challenge. If you’re not able to go with your parents to their doctor appointments, you’ll have to rely on them or a hired attendant to tell you what transpired. You may also be able to get your parents’ permission to have the doctor discuss their visit with you.
Some situations require the nursing home to contact you. Medicaid-certified nursing homes must notify their residents’ doctor, legal representative, and/or family member about certain medical issues. These include:
- Injury, whether or not it requires a doctor visit
- Deteriorating physical, mental, or psychosocial health
- Onset of a life-threatening condition
- Development of medical complications
- A significant change in treatment
The nursing home must also notify you and your parents’ doctor if the home decides to discharge your parents or transfer them to a different facility.
Managing your parents’ health concerns from afar isn’t ideal, but with the right support, your family can make it work. Clear and respectful communication with your parents, their doctors, and nursing home staff is the key. Learn more about long-distance caregiving on the SeniorAdvisor.com blog. And if you’re looking for a caregiver, please check out Caregivers.com