Making Nursing Homes a Safer Place

By: Katherine Dumont

They’ve been there from the beginning, for all of the firsts: the first steps, words, day of school, car, love, heartbreak, failure, and success. They’ve helped raise us, teach us wrong from right, invest in us, but what happens when the people who have always been there for us need our help?

Nursing homes offer an alternative solution when a loved one is not able to take care of themselves and your busy schedule and full house limit the attention and care you are able to provide, but a big concern that is becoming more prevalent is the safety of these nursing homes to which you are entrusting your loved ones. Studies conducted by Cornell University show that 400 patients out of the 2,000 surveyed admitted to experiencing some form of abuse, whether physical, sexual, or verbal, from their peers (“When Nursing Home Violence Results in Injuries, Death”). These forms of abuse can result in bruising and other injuries or low self-esteem and changes in mood and behavior, to name a few (“Negligence in Nursing Home Patients”). While nursing homes are more careful to monitor those patients with a proclivity towards violence or nonverbal abuse, usually stemming from dementia or other cognitive impairments that affect their normal behavior, the best way to make nursing homes safer is to go on the offensive and be thorough in the preventative measures taken to reduce the risk of physical and emotional harm.

A big safety concern for family members who have loved ones in a nursing home is neglect. It is estimated that 2.5 million Americans in nursing homes experience neglect each year (“Negligence in Nursing Home Patients”).  Neglect can socially isolate a patient from the people around them and also cause great bodily damage. For instance, some medications, diarrhea, vomiting, diabetes, or other medical issues may cause dehydration, which can lead to problems urinating, increased heart rate, dizziness, seizures, comas, and kidney failure if no proper action is taken (“When a Nursing Home Is Responsible for a Resident’s Dehydration”). The biggest way to prevent neglect is for the family members of the patient to get involved in their care plan. Because a lot of patients are unable to fight for themselves, they rely on their loved ones to be their advocates. Family members should get to know all the staff personally, observe them as they work, and measure their response times (Marak). They should note whether the staff report all incidents, however minor, so something can be done immediately to remedy the problem, or if the smaller occurrences are shrugged off in an attempt not to make a big deal out of “nothing.” Family members should randomly but frequently visit their loved ones, ensure they are getting the proper nutrition and care, and make sure they are comfortable with their environment (Marak).

When contemplating which nursing home would be a best fit for your loved one, make sure to assess the safety of the building, monitoring things like the door alarm, whether the key codes are different for each individual room, and whether the staff has a plan of action for wandering patients (Marak). It is important to ensure there are enough staff members available to properly monitor the number of patients at all times, and the staff should be trained and prepared to monitor small changes in patients that could later lead to bigger issues. For example, is a full assessment done upon admission? Are vital signs taken frequently, and are the patients asked about their comfort? Are comparisons made from the beginning to the end of the shift, and are the findings communicated to the new workers coming in for the next shift (Marak)? Communication is key to safety—whether it is between patient and nurse, nurse and nurse, or patient and family member—and, as perhaps the single greatest factor of patient safety, it is on this that the focus should be placed when deliberating new methods to increase safety in nursing homes.

Resources:

Marak, Carol. “Nursing Home Safety—Resident Safety in Skilled Nursing Facilities.” Skilled Nursing Facilities. SeniorCare, 2019. Web. 12 July 2019.

https://www.skillednursingfacilities.org/resources/nursing-home-safety/

“Negligence in Nursing Home Patients.” Nursing Home Abuse Guide. Meyer Law Firm, P.C., 2019. Web. 12 July 2019.

http://www.nursinghomeabuseguide.org/neglect/

“When a Nursing Home Is Responsible for a Resident’s Dehydration.” Cogan and Power. Cogan and Power, P.C., 16 Apr. 2019. Web. 12 July 2019.

https://coganpower.com/blog/nursing-home-dehydration/

“When Nursing Home Violence Results in Injuries, Death.” Bogdan Martinovich Attorney at Law. Bogdan Martinovich, 2019. Web. 12 July 2019.

https://libertyvillepersonalinjurylawyer.com/nursing-home-violence/

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