We subscribe to the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, a national publication for nursing home professionals. In this month’s issue, there is a fascinating and somewhat infuriating article on “conflicted surrogate syndrome,” a condition supposedly suffered by the families of nursing home patients.
The article defines the syndrome as “unwarranted, irrational or excessive complaints” made to a nursing home about patient care – yup, you are reading correctly.
Apparently, families that advocate for their loved ones are now being labeled by the nursing home industry as having a psychological syndrome.
The article goes on to list various factors that exist when “diagnosing” conflicted surrogate syndrome, including:
1. Unsubstantiated complaints;
2. High volume of complaints;
3. Repeated complaints about minor issues;
4. Complaints to outside agencies, such as the Virginia Board of Health Professions;
5. Verbal threats; and,
6. Psychiatric illness in the family member.
Okay, I concede that numbers five and six are problematic and should be avoided by everyone including family members. No one should threaten a caregiver, even if it concerns the treatment of a loved one.
But seriously, is it so wrong to shown concern about the treatment their family member receives at a nursing home?Why is the nursing home industry labeling folks who advocate for better care and using the system established by our legal system and administrative system as being symptomatic of a psychosis?
I almost cannot believe the study, nor can I really fathom the purpose of the article, which is how to find these folks early on to prevent the syndrome from developing.
Here is a clue: if you took better care of your patients, complaints wouldn’t be necessary. Maybe if you spent the time and money used in writing this study toward patient care, there would be no need for frequent complaints.
If you really think that minor issues are all that minor in an acute care setting, then we have a bigger problem. The nursing home industry might complain about the complainers, but I am proud to represent families who stand up for their loved ones and demand better care every day.