NEW YORK (WABC) -- Finding a facility to care for our loved ones later in life may be one of the hardest decisions a family can make.
But for one family from New York City, the experience was made even more difficult after they found their beloved mom and wife on the brink of death at her nursing home.
Their social worker put them in touch with 7 On Your Side, and they shared their story to warn others of what can happen if you're not paying attention to the details.
They were at the care center all the time, and they say they still missed some subtle but critical changes in behavior that could indicate something is very wrong.
When Carolyn Cempa was placed in a local nursing facility, her family never expected to the worse to happen.
"I was horrified," Cempa's son, Kip Evans, said. "I was more horrified than angry."
Carolyn wound up in the emergency room after being mistreated at that local Skilled Nursing Facility.
"'I don't think she's going to make it,'" Evans said. "That's what they said to us, but she pulled out of it."
Evans and Carolyn's husband, Andrew Cempa, noticed the once-vibrant woman was rendered speechless and partially immobilized from inexplicable seizures that seemed to worsen suddenly at her rehab center.
"I thought she was improving and clearly she turned the corner," Andrew Cempa said. "And something happened."
His wife was admitted to the hospital with open, bleeding sores, dehydration and undernourishment.
"They were responsible for feeding her, and they didn't do that," Evans said.
Ginalisa Monterroso founded a Medicaid advisory group to help others manage the intimidating world of healthcare. When it comes choosing an aide or a nursing home for your loved one, it is important to follow these important tips from our experts:
1. Check the quality of care
Evans and Cempa were vigilant about monitoring the quality of Carolyn's care and caught the warning signs.
2. Make unannounced visits
Elder care experts advise it's imperative for family members to also make unannounced visits to the facility.
"Just pop up hey hows it's going," Monterroso said. "Check the morning, the afternoon, the evening."
3. Ask questions
"I tell people the way I would take care of a newborn baby," she said. "All those frantic questions, that's the same way to take care of an elderly parent."
4. Check the license
When hiring an aide to work in your home, first make sure they are licensed.
"They're screened for background checks, so they can't have any criminal history," she said. "In the event that someone that disappears, the city has a tracking system."
5. Check references and experience level
Check the caregiver's references and make sure experience and capability level is suitable to what you need.
"The home health aides who were baby nurses are great for the elderly, because it's the same thing," she said. "Feeding, eating, changing."
6. Install a camera, and let the caregiver know it's there
"You never want to use your elderly loved one as a guinea pig," she said. "Tell the aide 'I have a camera here' so the aide knows. A lot of people say 'I'm going to hide it,' and your elderly loved one gets abused."
7. Write out a contract
Define expectations, spell out unacceptable behavior, and clearly define rules.