If you think that a care conference for an elderly loved one is a meeting you can easily skip, Claire Merendino suggest that you think again. As one of the elder care coordinators at Bratton Law Group, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in New Jersey, Claire often runs into family members who don’t understand the purpose of these meetings. Though the requirements vary slightly from state to state, the first care conference for a new resident must be held with a few weeks of a resident’s initial admission to the facility, with subsequent meetings happening quarterly, and then annually.
The care conference is one of the few times family members can meet with everyone involved in an older adult’s care. “It’s the only time you’ll have a captive audience,” Claire said. “Everyone interacting with tour loved one—your social worker, physical therapists, dieticians, nurses, and others—they’re all there to talk to you. Take advantage of it.”
To make the most of care conferences, Claire offers these tips:
Don’t Blow It Off
When you’re invited to a care conference for your loved one, always attend. “Some families choose not to go because they visit their loved one frequently and talk to the staff during those visits. “This is one of the most common mistakes I see people make,” Claire said. “While you may be talking to the nurse each day, you aren’t meeting with the entire team to review the big picture and discuss things like the resident’s current condition, medications, therapies, and so on.”
Not all facilities tell you in advance what will happen at a care conference, so it’s up to you to be proactive. A care conference is the place to bring every concern about your loved one’s care. Write down every question you can think of and bring that list with you. Below are just a few of the questions families might ask at care conferences:
- Why is [fill in the blank] happening?
- What's mom's weight?
- Is she still on [fill in the blank] medication?
- What's her diet?
If you have any questions or concerns, bring them to the care conference so you can get answers. And if they don't have time to get answers before the care conference is over, they can get back to you later.
Follow Up with the Right Person
If you ask a question at a care conference and it’s not answered immediately, make sure to follow up with the social worker assigned to you. “When it comes to getting answers about your loved one’s care, the social worker is running the show,” Claire said. “Everyone else is too busy. Know who your social worker is and how to contact him or her.”
Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated into silence. “The professionals working in long-term care facilities have their own lingo that’s hard for the average person to understand,” Claire said. “If you don’t understand and you say nothing, you can’t advocate for your loved one. It's okay to say to the therapist or the nurse or the doctor, ‘Speak English to me so I can understand what you’re saying.’”
Bring an Advocate
Making sure your loved one gets quality care in a facility can be a challenge. That’s where attending care conferences with a professional elder care coordinator from a Life Care Planning Law Firm can be so beneficial. “I often attend care conferences with my clients,” added Claire. “Family members appreciate having an advocate who understands the long-term care world, especially someone who works for a Life Care Planning Law Firm.”