Personal Injury

Family has the last say in nursing home care: Walker

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

Keeping an open line of communication “is always the best policy” when dealing with nursing home care, says Oakville personal injury lawyer Meghan Walker.

Walker, an associate with Will Davidson LLP who counsels families on nursing home issues, says the direct approach is always best when there is a concern.

She tells that one of the matters she addresses most often is the use of restraints on residents.

Walker says the request for restraints usually comes from the family if their loved one is having issues with falling out of bed or wandering away.

She says it’s important for families to understand that they have a say in their loved one’s care.

“Ministry guidelines are quite clear. Whenever a resident is admitted to a long-term care facility, a detailed care plan has to be put into place. That’s where you would discuss issues of chemical or physical restraints,” says Walker.

“It’s the care home’s responsibility to notify the family and possibly amend the plan to best suit the needs of the resident.”

Walker says facilities are permitted to use restraints on a short-term basis, but it would ultimately be up to the family to decide if they are appropriate for continued use.

“If, for an example, a resident is undergoing a procedure and it’s in their best interest to be restrained, then for a small window of time that would be acceptable,” she says. “But if they are restraining residents to their bed, and putting bed rails up without the family’s knowledge or input, that certainly is in contravention of the ministry guidelines of least restraint.”

Walker says it’s essential for families to understand the issues concerning their loved one’s care. Someone prone to wandering doesn’t necessarily need to be restrained physically or with medication. They can also be housed in a secure floor, she says.

Any increase in falls should be monitored in case the use of restraints becomes necessary, says Walker

“If there is a concern from the family that their loved one is going to fall, but they don’t want him restrained, then there are various fall assessments that need to be done by the nursing home,” she says.

“The care plan must be updated to ensure that any risk of falls is kept to a minimum.”

Walker says nursing homes and long-term facilities not only have to put a care plan in place, but they must also post a “residents’ bill of rights, which very articulately outlines their entitlements in simple and concise terms.”

“I found that’s actually quite helpful for family members because it’s right there at the facility.”

She encourages families to meet with her to discuss their concerns when moving loved ones into a residence.

“I’m always happy to speak with those families that want to be proactive to ensure they’ve covered all the bases and know their rights,” Walker says.

And if a family suspects a problem, they should immediately contact the director of care at the nursing home, she says.

“I always think it is better to meet with the entire team and the physician to discuss your concerns,” Walker says.

“It’s always best to ensure the family involved consents to what’s going on.”

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