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Palliative Care in Nursing Homes

There are roughly 1.5 million nursing home residents in the United States. Residents of nursing homes generally live at the facility for more than two years. It has been estimated that 25 percent of the residents pass away in nursing homes. In addition, of the 25 percent that die, half pass away within six months of entering the nursing home.

It is increasingly difficult to care for these individuals and their many medical challenges. Most long-term care residents are over age 65 and their health conditions affect their ability to perform basic everyday tasks without assistance. The fact is, most residents will remain in a nursing home for the rest of their lives.

That being said, when choosing a nursing home for a parent or loved one, how can you be sure their needs are being addressed, medically, physically and emotionally? If your parent or loved one needs palliative care, can you be certain the nursing home is providing the needed care?

Palliative care is not the same as hospice. Palliative care is initiated to help minimize symptoms and side effects while they are undergoing treatments for serious illnesses. It is in addition to the treatment they are receiving for the illness. Palliative care is not regularly provided to nursing home residents in the manner it was intended. This is important because if the resident receives the proper palliative care during treatment of another illness or disease, it has been proven to improve the patient’s quality of life and they are able to better manage pain associated with the main illness or disease.  

What can families look for to ensure their loved one is being cared for properly? Be your loved one’s best advocate by inquiring about the following:

-Does the nursing home contract for the services of palliative care?
-Ask what the difference is between regular doctor care and palliative treatment?
-Who provides the palliative care (nurse, nursing home staff, pharmacist, etc.)
-Ask for a meeting to discuss palliative services

It does not matter what your loved one’s prognosis or diagnosis is, they need to rely on safe, quality and consistent care. If you have a parent or loved one currently in a nursing home and have concerns about their care, consider taking the following actions:

1. Contact the management of the nursing home and discuss your concerns. If you are unsatisfied with their response or inaction, contact the your loved one’s physician.

2. Palliative care is the right of the resident. It provides your loved one with total care and well-being, not just the diseased area of the body. Overall care helps the patient to better respond to treatment specific to the disease or illness.

3. If you are concerned that your loved one’s treatment is less than what is needed or expected, contact the nursing home administration.

If after you have gone through the proper channels to discuss your loved one’s treatment or lack thereof, and you feel your concerns have not been heard or addressed, it may be time to contact an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse, such as the nursing home lawyer Memphis TN locals trust. They have resources available that can help make your concerns known and not ignored.


Thanks to Darrell Castle and Associates, PLLC for providing insight on Nursing home law.

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