In some ways, nursing home communities correlate with society in general. There are upscale nursing homes and those that are sub-par. Some nursing homes provide seniors with a wonderful sense of community, others make the residents wish they could live elsewhere. One way that adult children choose the nursing home for their loved ones is through evaluating different residential communities in a variety of categories, including:
- Social groups offered
- Medicare ratings
- Word of mouth/Reviews
What most people don’t consider is the risk factor of living in a particular nursing home, and let’s face it, that’s not something people like to think about. But it is a valid concern nonetheless.
Discrepancies in Care in Today’s Nursing Homes
Even with the implementation of new staffing protocol by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, many nursing homes are still blatantly understaffed.
This might be because CMS doesn’t have a minimum client to staff ratio but tracks only the number of hours that there’s a registered nurse on duty. Federal records have revealed that since 2014, one out of every eight nursing homes in the country has been cited by health inspectors for not having enough nurses to care for patients. Even more disturbing, these homes that have already been determined to be understaffed are even more so on the weekends, where one nurse can be responsible for up to 14 or 15 patients. Sadly, while this seems to be a lot of patients for one person, it doesn’t violate the minimum staffing standards as required by the government, which can be as high as 1:20
Risk of Crime
Seniors who live in homes that are understaffed not only face the issue of a lower quality of care, they must also worry about the risk of being a victim of crime. Resident on resident abuse is a widespread issue; only within the last decade have researchers begun to realize that it is more prevalent than abuse from caretakers, affecting more than half of the residents in nursing homes. Most cases of elder abuse go unreported, so the numbers could be much higher. This resident abuse makes them 300% more likely to die earlier than those who had not experienced abuse.
Risks of Outdated Technology or Equipment
As medical technology improves, old equipment and technology go by the wayside, leaving some nursing home administrators struggling to provide the same quality of care to their residents. A nursing home that has been using the same medical equipment (hospital beds, oxygen machines, sprinkler systems, etc) for decades may have trouble finding a person who can repair these outmoded systems when they break; even worse, most cannot afford to upgrade. This forces caregivers to try to care for patients without the proper tools, resulting in a higher incidence of injury and possibly death.
Dealing With the Added Risks of Community Living
There is a certain risk in living in a community setting; what makes a nursing home riskier is that many of the residents cannot fend for themselves. This makes it very important for you to research places you might consider placing your loved one in before making a final selection. Here are some quick tips to ensure that you have the information you need to make a wise decision:
- Visit the nursing home and speak with the administrator. While most nursing homes ask that you call ahead and make an appointment, sometimes it can be helpful to simply show up and ask for a tour. This will give you a snapshot of how they run on a normal basis.
- Go online and research the nursing home. Look at a number of different review sites as well as the Medicare reviews to get a realistic picture of the nursing home.
- Ask current residents how it is to live there. If you notice a lot of complaints, you might want to keep your options open. Talking to the administrator might give you an insight into problems that are in the process of being fixed and those that they might not be aware of.
- Realize that no amount of research will save your loved one from all the risks of living in a nursing home. Stay vigilant, visit often and report incidents that you think need to be addressed.