There are times when family members, who have a loved one in a nursing facility or an assisted living center, are uncertain about how to advocate on behalf of the resident. Advocacy is basically problem-solving. Learning the basics of the problem-solving process and steps to take along the way will benefit both the resident and family member.
Stage 1 is defining the problem. What exactly is the issue, be able to describe the problem with as much detail as possible. Include the five “W’s” – who, what, where, when, why in your description.  What information do you have from direct observation, discussion with a loved one or a staff member? Keep written notes which are dated to document your personal observations and discussions so you can refer to them as needed. Use objective, factual language to address the concern.
In Stage 2 determine what your goal is. What does the resident want to happen? What is an acceptable resolution? What outcome will benefit the resident? Make sure the goal is realistic and benefits the resident. Identify what action steps you could take to try to solve the problem at this point. Determine if there is a designated person on staff to handle concerns such as the administrator, the director of nurses or the social services director. Think through the “pros” and cons” in analyzing your approach to address a concern. Once you have taken action and addressed the issue, follow-up with the staff person you spoke to by sending a note summarizing the discussion and include any specific steps the facility said it would take to resolve the issue. Lastly, evaluate the outcome of your efforts. What was the result of your action? Is the problem resolved, partially resolved or not yet resolved? If the problem is only partially resolved or not resolved at all, repeat the above steps to re-address a second time.
If you are still not successful, identify where you could turn for assistance by contacting the local ombudsman or the state survey agency.
If your own attempts are not successful and you would like assistance with advocacy you may contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at Areawide Aging Agency (405)942-8500; search our website at or visit us on Facebook.