When a patient enters a facility, nurses are required to do an assessment. The assessment evidences whether there are any skin conditions or markings on the body and the patient’s general health. This information is used for creating care plans (a tool used by nurses stating the problem areas, e.g. pressure sores, procedures for correcting the problem areas, and estimated time to resolve the problem areas). Care plans are guidelines for the patient’s care and treatment. Nursing notes, nursing flowsheets, and Minimum Data Set (MDS) should evidence the patient’s treatments. Nursing assessments, notes, flowsheets, and MDS sheets are easy to read and will tell you whether nurses are providing the required treatments. Get your loved one’s consent to view their medical records immediately.
Next, speak with your loved one. Ask what they ate, how much they ate, how other patients appear, about the nurses’ demeanor, and whether the nurses are answering call lights (a device containing a button that when pressed signals nurses that the patient needs assistance).
To follow up, you may wish to check Department of Health Services (DHS) records pertaining to the facility in question. These records are available to the public and show the facility’s deficiencies and Plans of Correction. The deficiencies evidence everything from policy and procedure (the facility’s guidelines) violations to failure to answer call lights. Check what the facility has consistently failed to do and what the facility states it will do to correct the deficiency (Plan of Correction) and compare that with your observations. If the facility is not responding to your loved one’s call light and there is a pattern of this failure within the DHS records, chances are the problem is much worse than you think.
Document. Document. Document. Ask questions. Request nursing policies and procedures. Find out the identity of the Administrator, Director of Nursing, Assistant Director of Nursing, Charge Nurse(s), and all others providing care and treatment to your loved one. Write down everything, e.g., the appearance of other patients, who you spoke with, when, and the nature of the conversation, the time it took for a nurse to respond to a call light, and so on. When in doubt, write it down. This will be useful for building a case should you have one.
Do not accept excuses lightly. Elder Abuse oftentimes ends in death. Investigate, know your rights, document, and seek help from an attorney.