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Aging Well: Be a Squeaky Wheel

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Reading, Pennsylvania.

By Wendy Kerschner on Reading Eagle [Oct 13. 2019]

My grandmother resides in a local facility here in Berks County. Family members, including her son, daughter and grandchildren, visit her frequently.

We communicate with each other after our visits: What does she need? What did we notice?

We always keep her best interests in mind and want the very best care for her. After all, we are following the lessons she taught us for all those years. She always sacrificed for us and made sure we had what we needed, and now it is our turn to do the same for her.

Our family learned very quickly that for her to get the best care, we had to be the squeaky wheel. You know the saying: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

In order to be her advocate, we not only wanted to share what she needed and what we noticed with family members, but it was crucial that we shared that information with the facility as well. The facility is our partner in caring for Grandma now. We work together to be sure her needs are met. There for a while it seemed the trash can in her room never had a liner. We shared that detail to the facility and the situation was resolved.

There also seemed to be a shortage of hand-towels at the facility, because she rarely had one in her room. Again, we noted this concern to the facility and on most occasions she now has a hand towel. The point is that the facility and staff know our expectations and, by working together, we can establish a communicative relationship so she is receiving the best possible care.

Communication is a top priority in all care situations. Whether your loved one is at a doctor appointment, in the hospital or rehab, getting care in the home or living in a facility, never take for granted that someone else knows how you want your loved one treated or how you prefer services to be delivered. You need to speak up.

An acquaintance of mine recently relayed this story to me. Her mom lives in a personal-care facility, and the facility often has special events, entertainment, games and even “spa” days for the residents. On one occasion when visiting, she noticed her mom's fingernails were painted. The daughter was aghast! Throughout her life, her mother never painted her nails and further, her mother had a personal philosophy that fingernails should certainly not be painted. While her mom was not able to communicate this personal preference to the facility staff because of her health condition, her daughter could.

This is being the squeaky wheel. This is advocating for your loved one. This is communication and assuring yourself and your loved one that they will receive the kind of care they expect and deserve.

Some may think it is too assertive or bossy to speak up, but only when there is two-way communication can problems be solved, services be delivered as needed and expectations met.

There may be rare cases where the squeaky wheel does not seem to be getting any grease. In those cases I would suggest written documentation, such as an email or letter, to back up verbal conversation. In a situation where a picture or video is appropriate, take a picture or video as proof of what was done, what was not done or what needs doing.

If certain staff members are not helpful in addressing or solving your concern, ask for a manager. Be involved in your loved one's care by visiting them often, spending time in their living environment and getting to know the people on their care-and-provider team. You and your loved one deserve to have the best care possible.