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Call today! 541-954-2602

Your Personal Senior Living Advisor

Serving Eugene, Springfield and outlying areas

An advocate is a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person or cause.

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” I told Linda when she called me (again) to complain about the nurse at the assisted living where her mom lived.

Studies show that people with involved care partners, like family, have better outcomes. This is why I always advise my clients to get involved in their loved one’s care after they move into a senior care community. I advise them how to become a part of the team: “Pay attention to the way your parent looks and smells. Ask them about the caregivers and how they respond to their requests. Have a meal with them once in a while. Talk to the nurse about your loved one’s health. 

“But,” I always add, “Don’t be that family member who everyone hides from when they see you walking in.” Unfortunately, while Linda listened to the first part of my advice, she completely ignored the second half. 
There are many ways to be an involved family member in a proactive, positive, and productive way. Here are five tips to help you become the best advocate for your loved one.

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1.    Be a Team Member

Before anything else, remember that you are part of a team. Think about the other times in your life that you had to work with other people - the same behavior applies here. You don’t want to boss people around, patronize, antagonize, or ignore them. The best way for a team to be successful is through cooperation and collaboration. 
When a problem arises, avoid blaming, criticizing, and complaining. Instead, think of creative ideas and solutions and share them with the team. 
If you follow this advice first, everything else will fall into place.


2.    Build Relationships

Your care team members will become your extended family: the caregivers, administrator, nurse, activity director, chef, maintenance person, front desk person, and everyone else who is part of your parent’s life at the senior care facility. If the administrator has a picture of her kids on her desk, make a nice comment about her kids and share something about your grandkids. She’ll probably soften her voice with you. If you smile at the caregiver as you pass him in the hallway and ask him how he’s doing, you shouldn’t be surprised if he stays an extra five minutes to chat with your dad after he helps him shower. If you compliment the chef on the dish you ate, he may give your mom an extra piece of dessert the next day. 

One of the most common reasons for burnout among caregivers in senior care facilities is underappreciation. Your smiles and thank-you note will show them how much you value their hard work. 

You’ll be surprised how your loved one’s care will improve with an appreciated caregiver.

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3.    Help Create the Care Plan; Don’t Keep Secrets 

The more information the care team has about your parent, the better care they can provide. Some people are embarrassed by the behavior of a parent who has dementia. They believe that if they disclose that they get angry if they don’t get dessert with every meal, the senior care facility may not want them as a resident. The truth is quite the opposite. If you disclose this information, all they need to do is give him a cookie at the end of every meal to keep your parent happy and well-behaved. By sharing this small piece of information, you are helping create a better care plan for your loved one. Be involved in reviewing their care plan. If your parent has dementia and you are the primary source of information about them, be detailed with the facts you provide.
Helping create and monitor the care plan allows you to be ‘hands-on’ with your loved one’s care.


4.    Visit Randomly and Be Observant 

The senior care facility has different faces during different times of the day.

For example, if your loved one lives in memory care, you want them to be engaged in social activities. If you always visit right after lunch, you may think that there are never any social activities. But if you visit on different days and different times - after breakfast, before lunch, or later in the afternoon - you will have a better picture of the quantity and quality of social activities offered. Weekdays may have a different feel than weekends, and a quiet evening time may have a different vibe than a busy morning hour. You’ll also have the opportunity to see what caregivers do during quiet time (for example, if they’re on their phone or engaged with the residents) and how different caregivers treat challenging residents. 

This will help you avoid unhelpful blanket statements like “always,” “never,” or “everyone.”

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5.    You’ll Catch More Flies with Honey 

Those four first pieces of advice I gave you are useless if you are a person who always sees the glass as half-empty and wants others to see it that way, too. Keep in mind that, just like in any of life’s situations, nothing is perfect. People will make mistakes. You may have a caregiver who lacks passion for their job. Not every request can be fulfilling. But rest assured that if you always complain, never compliment, and expect everyone to always deliver the perfect answer, more things will go wrong. Instead, be the family member who everyone is happy to see because your smile brightens a hard day. Your appreciation will always come at the right moment, and your simple but creative ideas make caring for your loved one less challenging.
Your voice becomes much louder when you deliver it with a smile

Linda and Her Mom

Unfortunately, Linda felt that raising her voice was the only way to be heard. What Linda didn’t know was that I met with the assisted living administrator to talk about her mom’s care. After complimenting her about their care so far, I addressed Linda’s concern about the nurse. Together, we came up with a strategy that allowed better communication between Linda and the nurse. In a pleasant conversation, I acknowledged the challenges the team faced with Linda and brought up a few ideas for an easy solution. That’s all it took to ‘catch the fly’ and improve Linda’s mom’s care. 


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