privacy laws

Advocacy for long-term care residents

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Alternate Title:  Give me a damn beer!

Lately I’ve read various blog posts mentioning that employees of long-term care (LTC) facilities are routinely disregarding the rights of their residents.  What’s that you say?  You didn’t know that when these older folks walked through the doors of a facility, thus giving up their cherished long-term independence, they actually gained rights that they never had before?  Here’s some information that will benefit you and your loved ones.  I’ll explain by way of providing a few examples:

  • Charlie moves his mother into a facility and the head of Health and Wellness strongly suggests that he not visit her for awhile so she can adjust to living in a different environment.

WRONG!  If mom wants her son to visit her, Charlie should ignore the “advice” of the H&W employee and visit mom as often, and as long, as he and his mom wishes.  Logic: What do you think benefits mom most?  The calming presence of her son who has been the only constant in her life, or the absence of any person or thing that would lessen the feeling of abandonment in a strange environment?

  • June, who is confined to a wheelchair, is forced to go to an activity by facility staff.  Apparently June’s family has asked staff members to make sure that June gets out of her room and socializes with other residents.  On this particular day June would rather stay in her apartment and watch game shows on television.

Who wins this argument?  June should because it’s her life, and neither staff, nor family, can force her to do anything.  Logic: Doesn’t someone who’s lived at least 7 or 8 decades have the right to make decisions that are important to her?  Yes – and that right is protected by law.  Legal implications: June is reliant on others to transport her to and from places, therefore when she’s taken to the activity room against her wishes, the law considers that action as physical restraint because she is “stuck” in the activity room and in her chair, and not able to physically move herself elsewhere on her own steam.  Additionally, the facility is guilty of coercion – forcing June to do something she doesn’t want to do.

  • George joins his buddies in the dining room for lunch and orders a chili dog and a Bud Lite.  When the meals for him and his buddies are served, George’s chili dog has been pureed and his beer has been substituted with a glass of iced tea.

Scc dining room & Don setting up ADilemma: The server tells George that his doctor ordered a pureed diet because George almost choked on a roll at a nearby restaurant and he risks aspirating on his food.  The server then tells George, and anyone within hearing distance, that his doctor also said George should not drink alcohol because of his diabetes.

Rights infractions: The server talked about a medical condition in front of his buddies by mentioning two medical conditions: George’s choking hazard and his diabetes.  That’s a violation of his privacy rights.  George is aware of the choking incident – and he is also aware that alcohol may not be such a good idea because of his diabetes – but he is making an informed decision to eat and drink what he wants, knowing all the risks involved.  Solution: Oftentimes facilities are worried about liability in these types of situations – very understandable.  To resolve such a concern, all that is needed is to conduct a “care conference” in which the health & wellness director, George, and perhaps his doctor by phone, discuss the risks inherent with George’s decisions.  They can easily discern that George has weighed the pros and cons and that although he acknowledges that doctor’s orders have been issued, George decides to disregard said orders.  Care conference notes should indicate the gist of the discussion; perhaps everyone in attendance signs their name agreeing that what is written in the notes accurately reflects the points covered in the discussion, and then everyone should be happy and no lawyers need to be involved.

I strongly suggest that you contact the long-term care ombudsman in your state should you have any inkling that your loved one’s rights are being neglected.  Visit the National Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) and join with them to advocate for your loved one.  Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, and certainly all of you would agree that all people should have a satisfying quality of life regardless of ones’ age and residential environment.

Final thought: put yourself in your loved one’s position … what would you want done on your behalf?

Submitted by Boomer98053, a retired Certified Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

Customer loyalty: you have to earn it

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Those of you in business of any type whether medical, construction, retail, food or travel industry, or any of the thousands of business types out there:

What are you doing to retain your customers?

The following incident occurred more than two years ago and serves as a good illustration of failed customer retention.

I moved to a suburb of Seattle in 1997 and became a client/patient of a local chiropractor.  This Doctor of Chiropractic knew all there was to know about me structurally because she treated me for fourteen years.  One of the issues of which she was keenly aware was my cervical spine (neck) discomfort.  After much deliberation and procrastination, I finally decided to have it surgically treated.  I had discussed my treatment options with my chiropractor at length throughout my time as her patient and she concurred that I might very well benefit from the C5/C6 disc replacement and fusion.

Xray of cervical spine
Xray of cervical spine – not mine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One week before my surgery I attended my chiropractic appointment and upon my departure that day I was wished well with the goal of returning for treatment once my neck fusion was completely healed.

Fast forward one year.  During that year of healing I did not receive a phone call, nor did I receive a card; I received nothing resembling any indication that they valued my previous fourteen years of patronage.  So I did something about it.

I wrote a very kind but professional letter expressing my disappointment in the management of this chiropractic office – a business that consists of one chiropractor and four staff members.  I told her that I was offended at having been ignored.  Here’s an excerpt from my letter:

I am offended by an apparent disregard for a patient’s longtime loyalty and patronage of your practice.   In my mind, I felt that a provider of chiropractic care, which is so much more person-focused than traditional medical care, would value the patient/doctor relationship and reach out to this patient given the length of her patronage.  That was not the case, so I have chosen not to resume treatment under your care.

You can be certain that I received a call within days of sending that letter, a call that went to voicemail while I was away from the house.  The doctor fell all over herself gushing and oozing with regret while at the same time explaining her reason for doing nothing: “I wanted to protect your privacy.”

Come again?  Does that mean you were disrespecting my privacy each time your office called to remind me of the 100’s of appointments I attended for fourteen years?  No.  You wanted to be certain I would show up.  And how does sending a card to my home disrespect my privacy?  It doesn’t.  The excuse was weak and I stuck to my guns.  Businesses need to realize that the least expensive and best marketing strategy involves word of mouth advertising.  On the flip side, the least expensive and worst marketing strategy involves word of mouth advertising.

How much money have you lost because you ignored your customers?