For those who have an elderly loved one in a nursing home or who are about to make the decision, it is important to be proactive in identifying any potential problem facilities. By using the Nursing Home Inspect tool, family members can quickly determine whether a facility has had any infractions and, if so, what kind. This knowledge can help family members advocate for an elderly loved one and, if necessary, take the appropriate steps to ensure that he or she is placed a facility with a good rating.
What are common problems with nursing homes?
Unfortunately, many residents of nursing homes are no longer able to advocate for themselves. They cannot necessarily communicate when they are not being properly cared for. Unless visitors are watchful, mistreatment and neglect can continue for some time.
Here are some common issues that nursing home residents may face.
Problems with the food
A number of nursing homes have issues with preparing and serving nutritious and appetizing food. This issue is not just a matter of tastes and food preferences; it can include problems such as a facility serving spoiled or outdated food, preparing food that offers little nutritional value, or a kitchen area that is not properly cleaned, leading to insect or rodent infestation.
Neglect of the residents
Some nursing homes are not equipped to handle the resident numbers. In others, the staff is large enough, but the staff themselves may lack proper training and/or motivation. Whatever the reason, the sad fact is that a significant number of nursing home problems involve neglect of the residents.
Staff should understand the importance of checking on residents on a regular basis. Some residents may have lost the ability to toilet themselves and will need regular assistance. Other residents may be in need of assistance moving around, and if left alone too long may be at risk for a fall. Whatever the situation, family members will want to ensure that their elderly loved ones are going to facilities where the staff is both well-trained and motivated to provide proper care.
Lost or stolen personal valuables
Some nursing home employees steal from their residents. This is especially true when residents are entering the later stages of dementia when the risk of detection seems remote. Of course, elderly residents’ claims of theft may not be accurate. This actually leads to an increased risk of theft.
One way to reduce the risk of theft is to cut down on the number of valuable items an elderly loved one takes into the nursing home. Of course, this is not always feasible. Mementos such as wedding bands, lockets, or other personal pieces of jewelry are precious to an elderly person, and he or she will most likely want to keep them nearby.
Some nursing homes have a reputation for giving the wrong medications to their residents. Others may give the right meds, but in the wrong amounts or at the wrong times. Whatever the case, family members will want to ensure that an elderly loved one is going to a nursing home that has a track record of timely and proper medication distribution.
How to find a good nursing home
Fortunately, family members are not without tools to use in search of a good nursing home. A great tool is the Nursing Home Inspect database, available at http://projects.propublica.org/nursing-homes/. This tool allows concerned parties to view nursing homes in their own states. It displays any infractions a given home may have had within the past three years.
The creators of the tool have published a guide to using the tool at https://www.propublica.org/article/whats-new-in-nursing-home-inspect. Various types of searches are available, and viewers can review nursing home lists categorized by number of infractions. Keyword searches allow family members to research any issue that is particularly important to them. This helps to eliminate any nursing homes that have struggled with that particular matter.
It may not be possible to avoid placing an elderly loved one in a nursing home. The good news is that, through vigilance, advocacy, and the use of tools such as Nursing Home Inspect, family members can help ensure that an elderly loved one is given the proper care and has the best experience possible within the parameters of his or her particular health situation.
Ornstein, C., and Groeger, L. (Updated August 2016). Nursing Home Inspect. ProPublica. Available at http://projects.propublica.org/nursing-homes/. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
Ornstein, C., and Groeger, L. (December 17, 2012). What’s New in Nursing Home Inspect. ProbPublica. Available at https://www.propublica.org/article/whats-new-in-nursing-home-inspect. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
Quadagno, J., Stahl, S. (2003). Challenges in Nursing Home Care: A Research Agenda. The Gerontologist, 43 (Special Issue 2): 4-6. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10789804_Challenges_in_Nursing_Home_Care_A_Research_Agenda. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
Ruths, S., Straand, J., Nygaard, N.A. (2003). Multidisciplinary medication review in nursing home residents: what are the most significant drug-related problems? The Bergen District Nursing Home (BEDNUR) Study. BMJ Quality and Safety, 12(3): 176-180. Available at http://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/12/3/176.full. Retrieved September 21, 2016.