We all want the best available care for our loved ones during their twilight years. Balancing the quality of care versus ever rising nursing home costs can make choosing a nursing home an exasperating experience. It can be a long and difficult process to find just the right facility, and once a home has been selected, it is often hard to know exactly what type of care your loved one will be receiving. There are ways to assist you in your search for a reliable care provider though, and determine how your loved one will be treated and cared for once there.
The federal government recently instituted a ranking system for nursing homes. Similar to the ratings for hotels and motels, the system is based on a five-star scale, one being the lowest and five being the highest. The rating system compiles information from health inspections, staffing reports and quality measures. You can find and compare nursing homes on the government’s Medicare website at, http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.
While these reports provide a general snapshot of the quality of care at a nursing home and can be helpful in finding a suitable home for an elderly loved one, there are limitations to the system. Staffing reports are provided by the nursing home itself, quality measures are also self-reported, and variations in state funding and inspection processes can all skew data, making the ranking system somewhat subjective. These limitations make it important to conduct your own due diligence by speaking to nursing home officials, interviewing employees, and comparing similar facilities in a county or state area before making a determination.
Once you have decided upon a nursing home, it is important to continue monitoring the care of your loved one. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and the resident, as well as with nursing home employees, can often keep you apprised of any issues. Ensuring your loved one is able to communicate problems openly, honestly and without the presence of nursing home staff is important. In addition to certain licensing and certification standards, nursing homes must abide by “The Nursing Home Patient’s Bill of Rights”. This document outlines nursing home resident’s rights and can help protect your loved one, but still it does not guarantee they will always receive the best of care. It is therefore vital to be aware of certain warning signals that can alert you to issues or signs of neglect or abuse.
Resident abuse can take many forms, ranging from verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse, to physical and medical mistreatment. Some common indications that your loved one may have suffered abuse include signs of physical injury or restraint, unexplained medication or overmedication, signs of unexplained anger or agitation, strange or unexplained behaviors, emotional distance from loved ones, and lack of communication.
Neglect on the other hand, stems largely from lack of attention or care on behalf of the nursing home staff. This lack of care can affect the resident directly through refusal of or diminished medical attention, decreased assistance with personal hygiene, or as a result of nutritional deficiency. Neglect can also affect residents indirectly by allowing them to do damage to themselves, live in inhospitable or inhumane conditions, or letting their living space suffer from insect or rodent infestations. Some signs of neglect are easily visible, such as a change in the resident’s physical form or appearance. Others can be smelled, like strong odors of urine, feces, or vomit. Still other signs may be less noticeable, and might include weight loss, dehydration or bed sores.
Signs of abuse or neglect may not always be easily recognizable, nor may they be committed purposefully by the nursing home. Often, lack of funding, poor supervisory accountability, understaffing, or general carelessness can contribute to resident neglect. Acts of abuse or neglect can be isolated incidents or widespread. Remember, it only takes one bad apple to sow the seeds of misconduct. That is why it is important to keep the lines of communication open and know what warning signs to look for when making regular trips to visit a loved one.
This article is for informational purposes only. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is at the reader’s discretion.