The American Geriatrics Society projects that about 30% of Americans ages 65 and over will need senior care by 2030. Often families face the difficult decision to place their loved ones in nursing homes.
But many families don’t realize that nursing homes have licensed social workers who can help them advocate for their families in these homes. The nursing home social worker conducts intake assessments to determine patients’ mental, emotional and social needs; collaborates with physicians, nurses, psychologists, and case managers to develop and update patient treatment plans; discusses options with patients and their families, and manages patient discharges.
Aside from their regular responsibilities, when it comes to advocating for patients, social workers should prevent and address resident abuse as mandated by laws and abide by the ethics of their professional licenses. According to the National Association of Social Workers, or NASW, one of a social worker's principal functions is advocacy. The social worker in a nursing home is expected to collaborate with other staff and medical professionals to ensure a patient’s wishes are fulfilled. This is especially important in cases where the patient cannot communicate their wishes or is not competent to make their own decisions. The social worker is also expected to protect the patient from abuse and improve the quality of life whenever possible.
When your loved one isn’t getting adequate care, typically, there are red flags to alert you to potential problems, such as:
- Unexplained bruises and injuries
- Fear of staff
- Increased agitation or depression
- Lack of bathing or diaper changes
- Bed sores from not being turned or moved
- Weight loss from not eating
Don’t leave these issues unchecked because complacency means the abuse will continue. It could be the case where management may not realize a specific staffer is negligent or is overwhelmed and needs additional help. Also, with new federal regulations on the rise regarding nursing home staffing levels due to highly-publicized COVID deaths, nursing facilities are on high alert to take care of negligence immediately or risk costly lawsuits.
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