Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program UPDATE Newsletter
Volume 7, Issue 2 — April 2013
In this issue:
- Older Americans Month
- Appealing a Nursing Home Discharge
- Communicating with a Person Who Has Dementia
- New Ombudsman!
- National Mental Health Month
- Volunteer Ombudsman Spotlight
Older Americans Month
Older Americans Month occurs each May throughout the nation. This proud tradition began under President John F. Kennedy who designated May as “Senior Citizens Month” in 1963. It was later renamed Older Americans Month under President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
According to the Administration on Aging, Older Americans Month is a time to acknowledge the contributions older people, and particularly veterans, have made to our country.
Each year, the President issues a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking the nation to pay tribute and celebrate the older adults in our communities. The Administration on Aging develops a theme for Older Americans Month, which highlights a different aspect of the lives of older Americans and their relationship to their communities. The theme for Older Americans Month 2013 is Unleash the Power of Age.
The Administration on Aging encourages everyone to think about what they can do to help Unleash the Power of Age. Giving our elders opportunities to volunteer their time to support those who are less fortunate, to teach others the skills they’ve honed over the years, or to become involved in civic matters are just a few of the ways you can Unleash the Power of Age. These opportunities help our older Americans stay positive, active, and looking forward. Older Americans Month is the perfect opportunity to show our appreciation for the older adults in our communities.
Older Americans Month celebrations will acknowledge the value that older adults continue to bring to our communities by making an effort to applaud recent achievements of local elders and inviting them to share the activities they do to unleash the power of age. Check the Administration on Aging website at www.aoa.gov for more ideas on how to celebrate this important month.
Appealing a Nursing Home Discharge
The threat of being discharged or transferred from a nursing home can be very stressful for residents and their family members. The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 prohibits nursing facilities from transferring or discharging a resident unless it can prove existence of a permissible reason for transfer/discharge. The permissible reasons are:
- The nursing facility cannot provide adequate care for the resident;
- The resident’s health has improved to the point that he or she no longer needs nursing home care;
- Safety of individuals in the facility is endangered;
- The health of others in the facility would otherwise be endangered;
- The resident has failed, after reasonable and appropriate notice, to pay for care (although the facility cannot evict a resident who is waiting for Medicaid eligibility and should work with other state agencies to obtain payment if the resident’s money is being held by a family member or other individual); or
- The facility ceases to operate.
Even if one of the above reasons is cited for discharging a resident, a resident still has the right to appeal to the state. When considering appeals, the state holds the interest of the resident as the most important consideration.
If a resident or their family member is concerned about plans for
transfer or discharge from a nursing home, they can contact the Long Term
Care Ombudsman program. The ombudsman is empowered by law to advocate for
nursing home residents.
Communicating With a Person Who Has Dementia
If you know someone who has dementia, you probably are aware of how difficult it is to communicate with him or her.
There are many different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common.
Many dementias such as Alzheimer’s cause progressive memory loss, confusion, poor problem-solving, difficulty learning new skills, and impaired decision making. Fear, anger and depression, understandably, accompany these conditions.
All of this makes it difficult for a person with dementia to express his or her thoughts and emotions. It is also difficult for them to understand what others are saying because of changes in the way their brains receive and process messages.
To communicate with a person experiencing these changes, it is important to understand what the person’s personality was like before the disease as well as his or her current physical and cognitive status.
It is always important to be clam and reassuring. Nevertheless, despite your best efforts, a person with dementia can become upset for no apparent reason. If this happens, it is important to affirm his or her feelings and try to figure out the cause. Has their schedule been changed or disrupted? Try to refocus the conversation and ask them to share their experiences. If noise or other distractions are present, see if you can limit their impact.
Communication with individuals with dementia can be challenging. The
changes they experience make it difficult for them to express their
thoughts and feelings, as well as to understand what others are saying.
For more information, go to the Alzheimer’s Association Web page:
The Alzheimer’s Association lists 10 Quick Tips for Better Communication:
- Be calm and supportive. (Body language is 55% of communication.)
- Focus on feelings, not facts.
- Pay attention to your tone of voice. (This is 38% of communication.)
- Address the person by his or her name and always identify yourself.
- Speak slowly, using short simple words. (Words are 7% of communication.)
- Ask one question at a time, staying away from yes/no type questions.
- Avoid vague words and negative statements.
- Don’t talk about the person as if he or she isn’t there.
- Use nonverbal communication, like pointing or gesturing.
- Be patient, flexible and understanding.
Tavna Limage has lived in Northern Virginia for most of her life. She is currently living in Manassas with her husband, two dogs, and her mother. She is fluent in English, French, and Haitian Creole. In her spare time she enjoys playing with her dogs, reading and dancing.
Tavna obtained her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from George Mason University, and her MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University. Tavna has been a Fairfax County employee for eight years. Prior to joining the Northern Virginia Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, she worked in Coordinated Services Planning, and then Adult Protective Services. Tavna is really happy to be part of the Ombudsman program.
National Mental Health Month
May is National Mental Health Month, a time to raise awareness about mental illness in the United States. One mental illness that needs attention is depression in older adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression, one of the conditions most commonly associated with suicide in older adults, is a widely under-recognized and undertreated medical illness.
Many people believe that when it comes to older adults, depression is just a normal part of aging. However, this is not the case. Temporary “blue” moods are normal, but persistent depression that interferes significantly with ability to function is not. Several studies have found that up to 75 percent of older adults who die by suicide had visited their primary care physicians within one month of their deaths. These findings show the urgency of improving detection and treatment of depression to reduce suicide risk among older adults.
Depression can and should be treated. Psychotherapy or antidepressant medications, or a combination of the two, can be effective treatments for depression in older adults.
In order to detect depression, it is important to know the signs and symptoms. Symptoms include: feeling empty, worthless, restless, irritable, unloved, feeling that you do not enjoy things that you used to or that life is not worth living. In addition, sleeping and/or eating more or less than usual may also be a symptom of depression. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor. For more information, go to the National Institute of Mental Health at www.nimh.nih.gov.
Need Information or Have a Concern About Nursing or Assisted Living Facilities? Contact us at:
Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 708
Fairfax, VA 22035
Offices hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Intake Line: 703-324-5861, TTY 711
Email us at NVLTCOP@FairfaxCounty.Gov
To view information on the NVLTCOP website and to see the Investigation and Complaint Log, please go to: www.FairfaxCounty.Gov/LTCOmbudsman.
What an Ombudsman does:
- Advocates for improving the quality of life for persons receiving long-term care services
- Resolves complaints against long-term care providers through counseling, negotiation, and investigation
- Provides information about long-term care providers to help make an informed decision
- Educates the community about long-term care issues
- Visits residents of long-term care facilities on a weekly basis through our volunteer program
- Trains long-term care staff on long-term care related information
- Consults with providers
Volunteer Ombudsman Spotlight – Angela Elliott
Born in 1953 in Germany, of a German mother and a Welsh father, I am an only child. My first four and a half years were spent in Germany, followed by five years at a small, English-speaking boarding school in Switzerland. Then it was off to Cardiff, Wales, my father’s home town, to complete my education. To my mother I owe my love of German Christmas traditions, of gardening, cooking and good food, and any practical skills that I possess. My father passed on to me his love of English literature, particularly poetry, a delight in good puns, and a passion for Rugby football. The latter has enabled me to appreciate American football, particularly once I grasped the rules, and no longer thought of it as choreographed ballet for elephants!
I met my husband, Will, while I was in the USA taking a break from nursing, the profession I entered after leaving school. We have been happily married for thirty years, twenty one of those with the United States Agency for International Development. We have a 28 year old daughter, part of a Franciscan Community in Meriden, CT, and a 24 year old son currently at home saving money towards starting a Master’s degree in August.
I joined the Volunteer Ombudsman Program in 2008, after looking after my mother for seven years at the end of her life: four years in our home, and three in a nearby assisted living facility. Those seven years showed me the importance of advocacy work for the frail, and not so frail, elderly.
I appreciate how seriously the LTCOP takes the training and support of its volunteers. My happiest days as a volunteer are when something gets fixed or made better for even one resident. So I still remember the resident who was complaining about the monotony of the menu: she could tell which day of the month it was by the lunch she was served. I realized that, after 14 years in this home, she had never been made aware that there was a choice of menu. That changed the next day — so simple, but so significant in her life. The hardest days as a volunteer Ombudsman are those dealing with issues that cannot be so easily fixed. While those days are frustrating, I am still able to bring a listening ear to that resident, which is sometimes the most important gift I can bring. In return, I hear stories of real life that are better than any novel one could imagine.
The Virginia Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is now part of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in all programs and services. To request reasonable accommodations or alternate formats, call 703-324-5861; TTY 711.
This publication has been created or produced by Fairfax County with financial assistance, in whole or in part, from the Administration on Aging and/or the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
A Fairfax County, Va. publication. April 2013