Depending on the financial and medical circumstances, your family may be unable to support in home care or assisted living options for a loved one. But how, exactly, should you pick a nursing home? Choosing a facility can be daunting, scary and painful. What standards and parameters should you consider? What independent resources can you consult? What red flags should you be primed to identify.
Science shows that the quality of care the elderly receive can have a tremendous impact on their happiness and health in their final years.
Unfortunately, the increasing demand for care facilities – spurred in part by the aging of the Baby Boomer generation – has created market conditions that often favor quantity over quality. There is just too much need and not enough great facilities, staffed with great people.
Perhaps because of this reality, nursing home abuse incidents have skyrocketed in recent years. The increasing number of both post-retirement-age adults and elder care facilities has overwhelmed oversight measures. For instance, one report filed in 2014 discovered that one in three nursing homes have faced abuse charges — a disturbingly high ratio!
How do you avoid the “bad” nursing homes and find a place that protects your loved one’s happiness, health and well-being?
It ultimately comes down to due diligence before, during and after you choose a home. What follows is a brief strategy guide to evaluate care facilities and approach this task skillfully.
First: Appreciate the Scope and Effects of Nursing Home Abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, problems created by abuse and neglect can include:
- Higher risk of premature death. Physical abuse of any kind creates a 300 percent higher risk of death.
- Declined mental state. Verbal abuse can have surprisingly powerful affects on a person’s mental and physical health.
- Increase in risk of disability. Elder abuse victims are three times more likely to be hospitalized. They’re also significantly more likely to suffer a disability, even if they’ve displayed no disability risk beforehand.
- Financial impacts. Direct medical costs for injuries resulting from elder abuse or neglect amount to more than $5.3 billion of total U.S. healthcare spending.
Use Rating Systems When Vetting Nursing Care Options
Government and neutral agencies have created several useful rating systems. Here are a few:
- gov Nursing Home Compare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide nursing home ratings based on objective criteria that evaluate elements like health inspections and available staffing hours per resident.
- S News & World Report Ratings. The U.S. News & World Report compiles rankings of evaluated facilities in Pennsylvania and other areas throughout the nation.
Do note that these rating systems aren’t infallible. Use them in context, ask a lot of good questions, and use personal impressions along with trusted customer feedback and reports to inform your decision.
The Importance of Proper Staffing – “Who” Matters
Assess the number of available staff and the skill of said staff. Facilities that are understaffed – or that lack properly trained and credentialed people – can put your loved one at risk. Again, however: remember that quantity and quality are both critical. A nursing home that’s fully staffed with poor quality nurses or badly trained people will not be a good choice. Interview staff members, ask probing questions, and pay attention to what family members of other residents say about the staff.
These can include:
- Pressure Ulcers. Also known as “bed sores,” these injuries occur when residents cannot perform desired activities or when bed-ridden patients are neglected.
- Infections. Infections can happen quickly in immunocompromised older adults. Obviously, no facility can stop the spread of all germs and problems, but be alert for signs that infections are under-diagnosed or under-treated.
- Falls. Falls contribute significantly to a decline in quality of life, even if they don’t cause immediate injuries, per a CDC Facilities that lack occupational therapy or physical therapy specialists may fail to identify fall risk factors or fail to treat fall victims properly.
Use Other Tools and Strategies to Evaluate Facilities
U.S. News & World Report provides a helpful guide on supplementing nursing home and care facility reviews with your own personal research.
- Pre-emptively Evaluate Care Facilities. Too many family members wait until after an incident or emergency to vet care facility options. Take tours, and perform research in advance to diminish urgency and engage in more patient, objective evaluation.
- Listen in on Staff Conversations. Eavesdropping may seem impolite, but listening to staff talk to one another can reveal a tremendous amount about how they view their patients. Disparaging or dehumanizing remarks are red flags.
- Evaluate Recreation and Exercise Options. Sitting in front of the television should not be the only available activity for residents. Are they able to participate in things like garden walks, games, crafts or cultural activities to stay mentally and physically sharp?
- Find Out How Much Autonomy Residents Have. Residents are adults and paying customers, and they should be treated as such. Be wary of any facility that will not allow residents to choose elements like their own wake-up times or that forbids them from personalizing their rooms with their own decorations or furniture.
- Find Out Who Is in Charge, and Ask Great Questions. Administrative turnover tends to be scarily high in many care facilities. Can you contact staff managers or administrators? Do so. Ask them detailed questions, and take notes. Walk away from any facility that seems more interested in marketing than in patient health.
- Evaluate the Availability of Medically-Trained Staff. Do residents get the needed level of care in both emergencies and daily situations?
Never Keep Silent About Elder Abuse or Nursing Home Abuse
If you suspect that your loved one has been abused, neglected or mistreated at a nursing home, immediately report the incident. Our team at Rosenbaum & Associates provides free consultations for nursing home abuse cases, and we fight hard to help obtain fair compensation and justice. Call or email us for a private conversation about your options.
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