Senior Living Q & A: Verify a parent's care

Q. My mom is in a nursing home and I visit her three times a week after work. My sister visits also. What should we be aware of?

You want to have a good relationship with the nurses and treat them with the respect they deserve, but you still need to be your mom’s advocate, especially if she can’t speak for herself.

You should trust, but also verify, that she is getting good care. You cannot immediately assume everyone is going to be terrible, but you cannot immediately assume that you are going to get the best care the system has to offer, either.

You need to change your visitation schedule so that it isn’t a schedule. Try to visit at different times of day. Show up at 6 o’clock in the morning. Show up at 8 o’clock at night. Never let them know when you are coming. You want to get to know the nurses on the various shifts. They all need to see that your mom has a loving family who visits her. The result is that you raise the status of your mom from being the patient in room 201 to being someone that people are really looking in on and caring about.

Periodically check all over her body to be sure she doesn’t have bed sores. If there is any sort of incident, if you see that there is some kind of infection going on or something has happened, check her chart to be sure it was noted and is being attended to. Make sure that there was an incident report.

Mom might try to communicate with you. Sometimes you will sense that she is hearing something, or that she is uncomfortable with someone. If you get that feeling, trust it and try to figure out a way to get her to communicate with you.

You can try a white board and a marker. See if she can scratch something out on the white board. She might tell you something about a nurse, or the food, or she might just say she wants ice cream. At least then you will know how to help her.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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