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I have problems at my nursing home. What should I do?

It is often difficult for nursing home residents or their representatives to decide how to deal with problems. Many simply keep quiet. Sometimes, residents keep quiet because they do not want to be considered complainers. Others are afraid of retaliation. Some residents believe complaining will do no good. Residents and their representatives must speak up about concerns or the problems will not be addressed.

State and federal law give residents and their representatives the right to complain without retaliation.

Your community ombudsman can help you make sure this right is respected.

This fact sheet identifies a variety of ways to bring attention to your concerns or problems.

Who should I complain to?

The first place to complain is to the staff of the nursing home.

  • Identify the nursing home staff person who has the knowledge and authority to respond to your concern.

If you are concerned about your care, you should try to speak to the charge nurse on your unit or the Director of Nursing for your facility. If the problem involves your meals, you may wish to speak to the dietary supervisor.

  • Go just high enough in the chain of command to find somebody who is willing and able to address your concerns.

If the staff does not respond appropriately, ask to speak to the administrator of the facility. The administrator is responsible for managing the home and has the authority to direct the staff to respond to your concerns.

Nursing homes are required to have a written GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE. Your facility should have a process for making a formal complaint and for answering your concerns. Ask for information about this process and obtain a copy of a complaint form. Consider putting your complaint in writing to the administrator. Often, written complaints get more attention. Keep a copy so you can document the steps you have taken.

Care Plans and Conferences

At least once every three months, and whenever there are significant changes in your needs, the nursing home must hold a Care Plan meeting to plan your care. You have the right to attend these meetings. Your family members or other representatives have the right to attend these meetings. The care plan meetings are attended by health care professional's in the nursing home such as nurses, dieticians therapists, social workers, and possibly your doctor. These meeting provide a good opportunity to get information and to raise questions or concerns about your care. For more information on care plans, see Assessment and Care Planning In Nursing Homes.

Resident and Family Councils

A Resident Council is an independent, organized group of persons living in a nursing home. The Council meets on a regular basis to discuss concerns, develop suggestions and plan activities.

Family Council, made up of family members and friends of residents also meet regularly and have similar purposes.

If your nursing home has a Resident or Family Council, it may be a good place to discuss your concerns. By working with other residents and family members, you may be able to bring more attention. See Family Councils in Nursing Homes.

Contacting the Owner

If the administrator has not responded to your satisfaction, you may want to contact the owner/operator of the nursing home. The owner or operator hires the administrator and has authority over him/her. Owners who care about their business will take your concerns seriously. You are their customer. While the owner may not directly resolve your problem, he/she has the authority to make changes at the home. Just contacting the owner may convince the nursing home staff to take your concerns more seriously.

Your local ombudsman can help you identify the owner and how to contact him/her.

Filing Formal Complaints

If the nursing home has not address your concern to your satisfaction, you may want to file a complaint with the state agency that licenses nursing homes. To report problems with quality of care, abuse or other violation of residents' rights, file an online complaint or call (404) 657-5726, (404) 657-5728, (404) 657-8939 or 1-800-878-6442 (outside the Atlanta calling area.)

Often, these lines are busy. Keep trying. It may be better to send you complaint in writing. Once your complaint has been received, you will get a complaint number. Keep this number in a safe place so you can refer to it if necessary.



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