VOX POPULI: Family Council — A New Voice for Nursing Home Residents at Kei-Ai Los Angeles

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A new sign for Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center can be seen in front of the former South Bay Keiro in Gardena. With the sale of Keiro Senior HealthCare’s four facilities to Pacifica Companies LLC earlier this year, the former Keiro Nursing Home in Lincoln Heights is now Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center; Keiro Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights is now Sakura Intermediate Care Facility; and Keiro Retirement Home in Boyle Heights will be known as Sakura Gardens. The two nursing homes and ICF are operated by Aspen Skilled Healthcare Inc.; the retirement home is operated by Northstar Senior Living Inc. Call Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center at (323) 276-5700; Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center at (310) 532-0700; Sakura ICF at (323) 263-9655; Sakura Gardens at (323) 263-9651. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

A new sign for Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center can be seen in front of the former South Bay Keiro in Gardena. With the sale of Keiro Senior HealthCare’s four facilities to Pacifica Companies LLC earlier this year, the former Keiro Nursing Home in Lincoln Heights is now Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center; Keiro Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights is now Sakura Intermediate Care Facility; and Keiro Retirement Home in Boyle Heights will be known as Sakura Gardens. The two nursing homes and ICF are operated by Aspen Skilled Healthcare Inc.; the retirement home is operated by Northstar Senior Living Inc. Call Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center at (323) 276-5700; Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center at (310) 532-0700; Sakura ICF at (323) 263-9655; Sakura Gardens at (323) 263-9651. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By SUSAN YAMAMOTO, Pharm. D

Since Keiro Nursing Home changed its name to Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center and ownership transferred hands earlier this year, its residents have lost the umbrella of protection once afforded by its previous owners, Keiro Senior HealthCare and Keiro.org. This unprecedented sale left the residents and their families bewildered as to what the future might bring.

Yet, in the haze of uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the sale, hope began to take shape when the daughter of one resident bravely stepped forward and started a “family council” at Kei-Ai L.A.

The newly created Kei-Ai Los Angeles Family Council is an informal gathering of residents, family members and friends that meets at the nursing home every other Saturday to share information and concerns regarding the quality of care for the residents.

Meetings are for members only and held behind closed doors to protect the confidential nature of discussions. Facility personnel, administrators and staff are not members and not included in these meetings, unless invited to participate as guest speakers.

The list of past guest speakers includes the director of nursing as well as the kitchen manager from the nursing home and the regional manager from the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program.

Our Family Council is, by design, autonomous and led by its own members, following the model created by CANHR (California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform). In California, the rights of family councils in long-term care facilities are protected, according to CANHR, by the strongest law of its kind in the nation (Google “SB 1551 Dunn”). These laws permit family councils to function independently without control or interference by the nursing home administration or staff.

Our meetings are not all “monku monku” either. Yes, complaints are aired; but the big difference is that we go the extra step to investigate the problem, or potential problem, and identify possible remedies while directing our concerns to the proper administrator in charge. Such a task would be overwhelming for a lone family member, but as a united group we become a strong voice capable of introducing change on behalf of the residents.

Incontinence 101: Recently, the change to “thinner” diapers ignited worries of diaper rash, skin and urinary tract infections, urine-soaked clothing and bedding, and, worst of all, the suffering of any resident in such conditions. Through Family Council meetings, members learned the basics of adult diaper care: choices in size, shape and thickness; frequency of diaper checks; protocols for diaper change; and compared the differences between diapers used “before” and “after” the switch.

As a united voice, Family Council delivered our concerns to the administration; and, in response, the administration reassessed the change and, subsequently, reinstated the “thicker” diapers.

The efforts of many people are involved. Our Family Council is a new and growing voice that was started by the hard work of Cynthia Sakaki Sirlin. One of our strongest supporters is Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto, who has been attending to residents at Kei-AI L.A. for over 30 years, and has met with Kei-Ai administrators face-to-face as well as sent letters of concern regarding issues impacting the residents, including the diapers.

During this transition, the administration at Kei-Ai L.A. has extended their cooperation and attention to our concerns. I believe this new collaboration is an encouraging sign for the future of its residents.

For more information on family councils, contact:

• CANHR (California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform), “Family Councils,” (800) 474-1116, (415) 974-5171, www.CANHR.org.

• Kei-Ai Los Angeles Family Council, meeting dates are posted at the front entrance and on each floor; email [email protected]

Susan Yamamoto, Pharm. D is a member of the Family Council at Kei-Ai L.A., where her mother is a resident. The opinions do not represent the opinions of the Family Council or Kei-Ai L.A. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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