Don’t Skip the Care Conference

Should you ever blow off a care conference for your elderly loved one at the nursing home?

Kim Gizzio says no.

Kim speaks from experience. With a master’s in social work and as one of the elder care coordinators at Anderson Elder Law, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Media, PA, Kim has seen what happens when family members don’t bother to attend these important meetings. “If you’re new to the world of long-term care, you may not realize what’s happening and why it’s so important for you to attend,” she said.

Let’s start with the basics. A care conference is a meeting where facility staff, family members, and the resident gather to discuss the resident’s care plan. What’s a care plan? In Pennsylvania, where Kim is located, Section 483.21(B) of the Pennsylvania State Operations Manual defines it like this: 
A care plan is a person-centered, comprehensive care plan developed and implemented to meet the preferences and goals of the resident.

According to Kim, the focus is on how everyone will work together to meet the resident’s needs, not the other way around. “A care plan addresses the resident's medical, physical, mental, and psychosocial needs,” she explained. “Throughout a resident's stay in a facility, the care plan is built around the reality that the resident has choices and preferences. It’s vital that the resident is listened to, and that the facility is held accountable for honoring their choices and preferences the best they can.”

“The care plan will be the main topic of a care conference,” noted Kim. “If you’re new to care conferences, you might expect the meeting to be with attending physician, but that’s not what usually happens. Instead, expect to meet staff members from all the disciplines that provide direct care to your loved one, including workers from the dietary, social services, medical, and recreational staff, as well as professionals providing therapy.”

Nursing home regulations require care conferences to take place at certain intervals. In most states a care conference is required shortly after the resident is first admitted to the facility, and then quarterly thereafter. Family members can also request care conferences to address issues related to their loved one’s care or overall wellbeing. 

Care conference can last as long as up to an hour. For many residents, the initial care conference is the longest. Staff members in each discipline will review their approach to care, what they're doing for the resident, how the care team works together, and what to expect. “Care conferences helps build rapport between the staff and family members,” Kim added. “You get to know the nurses, the therapists, the social workers, and everyone else as people. It’s important to know who's providing care to your family member.”

Care conferences also enable staff members to get to know the resident better. “If you’re a family caregiver, you know the resident best. Care conferences are the place to share that information with staff members so they can provide better care.

Ultimately, the care conference is about meeting the individual's needs. “The resident has the right to participate if they're able,” Kim added. “Even if there is mild cognitive impairment, they benefit from participating. It’s their right to be involved in their care plans. It’s about them.”