The hidden flaws of nursing homes

Although nursing homes are regulated, there are too many cases of nursing home neglect and abuse. Consumers should look behind the curtain for signs of nursing home neglect and other problems.

For instance, mandatory arbitration clauses may be tucked into the contract. These require residents and their families to settle claims outside of court and take away their right to sue for serious problems, such as negligence. Evidence of nursing home neglect may be hidden in plain view. Families should look at other residents to see if they are clean and properly cared for. Living quarters should be clean, safe and in good repair.

Staffing is another major issue impacting care and may indicate neglect. Up to 95 percent of nursing homes in this country could be understaffed. Some facilities have difficulties finding sufficient staff, while others intentionally keep staffing low to cut expenses. Another staffing issue is the number of permanent number of nurses. However, facilities may also employ agency nurses who are temporary nurses from staffing agencies and rarely form bonds with residents. At least 80 percent of employees should be permanent nurses.

Similarly, nursing home assistants may not have formal training and suffer a high rate of turnover. Some facilities may hire untrained workers and train them for this position.

Although most facilities employ physicians, patients may be restricted from seeing their own doctors. Facilities may need to waive this rule if a resident has a long-standing relationship with their own doctor. It is also important to learn the frequency of staff physician visits with residents and health care plans.

The physical therapy facility should also be fully equipped and staffed. Making residents seek outside health aid is also inappropriate because homes should be staffed and equipped to provide needed care. Other important items include staff cleanliness. Proper hand-washing hygiene is a major problem that is especially prevalent in understaffed facilities. Good facilities also ensure that their residents are not malnourished even though many seniors have appetite loss.

Source: Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet, "The dark secrets your nursing home doesn't want you to know," Lauren Walker, April 23, 2018

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