Five Tips to Promote Quality Care When Your Family Member Lives in a Senior Community

It's a huge hurdle for many families and elders to decide to make a move and find the right senior community. Leaving the family home after many years can be a painful transition.

It's natural to feel a sense of relief now that your family member has moved into a senior community. While one role as the hands-on caregiver for your family member is ending, a new role is emerging as your family members advocate and care coordinator. How will you maximize the value that your family member will receive from her new living situation and make sure that she is getting the best care?

Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Visit your family member regularly.

There is no better way to support your family member especially during the transition to their new home than to visit. No matter how carefully you vet a community prior to your family member moving in, there is more to be learned during your frequent visits.

By visiting regularly and at different times of week and day, you get a better understanding of the rhythms of the community. When is it bustling and when is it quiet? What is the staffing like in the evenings or on weekends?

Frequent visits also give you the opportunity to get to know your family members caregivers and to deepen your connection with the administrator and nursing director. It sends the message that your family member is important to you and your family.

If you are not able to visit regularly, consider hiring a geriatric care manager (GCM) to check in with your family member and act as his/her advocate. Your GCM will keep you posted on how your family member is doing.

2. Participate in family activities sponsored by the care community.

When you attend the Valentine's Day party or the Father's Day celebration, you are affirming your love for your family member not only to him but also to his caregivers and the rest of the staff. Family activities can also be a time to connect with other families who may become a source of support to you.

3. Build a productive business relationship with the administrator, nursing director, caregivers and other personnel where your family member lives.

Once, I had a boss that I didn't like. When I analyzed our relationship I realized that the only time he ever spoke with me was to give me new assignments or to offer negative feedback. No wonder I didn't like the guy!

Don't make the same mistake my former boss did by only interacting with the management where your family member lives when you have a complaint. Offer praise and positive feedback to employees and management. Recognize employees who do a great job to management.

4. Create a log to track your observations about your family members health and care.

When you do have a complaint, it will be more effective if you can give as many facts as possible to support your concern. You and your family members can keep a log of concerns about your family members well being. Also use your log to record positive events that you want to communicate to the care community's administrator.

5. Attend care plan meetings for your family member.

If your family member lives in an assisted living community or a skilled nursing facility (nursing home) there will be regular care plan meetings. At the meetings, your family members current mental and physical health and care needs will be discussed. The meetings give an opportunity for you to share any concerns that you might have and to offer positive feedback on things that have gone well.

During the meeting, take notes about any actions that should result from meeting along with due dates when they will be completed. Use your calendar to set follow up dates to make sure that the agreed upon changes are made.

Does your family member currently live in a senior community? What are your tips for making it a great experience?