The “Rights” Stuff

The “Rights” Stuff

I recently heard a friend of mine talking about his dad’s nursing home experience. Everything was going well, or so he thought, when out of the blue a staff member called to say his dad had become aggressive.

Subsequently, he learned that one of the nursing home’s doctors had made a change to one of his father’s medications. He realized that, even though his mom visits his dad frequently, the nursing home staff never mentioned this change—until it was too late. By the time he learned about the dosage drop in his dad’s medication, his dad had become aggressive, and the nursing home was now required to send him out to a geriatric psychiatric hospital for “observation” and possible medication adjustment.

My friend was telling me that one of the most frustrating parts of the whole thing was that this had actually happened one other time. More than a year earlier, they had adjusted his father’s medications without consulting him, and the change caused a host of aggressive behaviors; but once the meds were adjusted back to where they originally were, the aggressive behaviors went away and all was right with the world again.

It was then—the last time this happened—that he requested the staff not make any changes to his father’s medications without including him in the discussion. But now it’s happened again, and it has brought about stress that is completely unnecessary for—

  • His dad
  • His mom
  • The nursing home staff
  • And for him

It’s situations just like this that contribute to the frustration experienced by many caregivers; it’s a large part of what makes caregiving such a difficult job. The daily issues are hard enough, but when a nursing home fails to communicate with the family—particularly a family where the primary caregiver is actively present and frequently visiting at the nursing home—there is an eruption of problems which are entirely avoidable.

It’s crucial for nursing home residents and their family members to know they have certain rights which have been established by Federal law and can be found listed on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.

I’ve pointed out to my friend a couple of the rights that specifically address these areas of concern regarding of his dad’s care:

  • His dad has the right to participate in decisions that affect his own care (in this case, that would actually be my friend who has power of attorney for his dad and is therefore recognized as his dad’s legal representative)
  • Also as his dad’s legal representative, my friend has the right to be notified if his dad’s treatment needs to change significantly; the reduction of a medication that’s being given as a mood stabilizer certainly qualifies as a “significant” change—especially when the absence of that medication resulted in aggression that required him to be sent to a geriatric psych hospital to get the meds readjusted

As caregivers, we need to be familiar with the rights of our loved ones who are residents of nursing homes. They deserve our love and respect, and being vigilant about their long-term care is just a natural part of that affection.


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