We recently reported on nursing home abuse and negligence. It’s a difficult subject. Many families have a hard time making the decision to put an elderly family member into a nursing home or other care facility when caring for that family member is difficult. While nursing homes can provide an excellent level of care and comfort, many families worry that their loved ones could become victims of abuse and negligence. The best way to prevent this, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is to consider every potential nursing home with a checklist. Families should look for nursing homes and facilities that are:
*Able to offer needed special services in a separate unit. This ensures that patients with special needs are offered the additional help they need.
*Close enough for visits. Frequent visits from friends and family are important to nursing home residents, and family and friends are also the first ones to notice and raise alarm when abuse or negligence seems to be an issue.
*Clean. The nursing home should appear well-maintained and should be free from unpleasant odors. Residents themselves should also be well groomed, clean, and appropriately dressed for the temperature and the time of day.
*Kept at a comfortable temperature.
*Able to provide good lighting – this is crucial in preventing slip and fall accidents.
*Able to restrict smoking to specific areas and are able to keep noise to comfortable levels.
*Pleasant and safe. There should be accessibility features such as ramps and bars on the sides of bathroom tubs. Furniture should be sturdy and not easily moveable, but should be attractive and pleasant to use.
*Hiring the right staff and training them well. Staff should have name tags and should be respectful, polite, and kind to residents and their families. Training and continuous training programs should be available (and mandatory) for staff members. Background checks should be run on all staff before they are hired.
*Sensitive to patient needs. Staff should knock before entering residents’ private rooms and plenty of privacy should be offered for bathroom use. Residents should always be referred to by name.
*Able to offer a full-time Registered Nurse (RN) in the home at all times. A good facility should also be able to offer the same Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) to work with the same residents 4 to 5 days per week. These CNAs should have reasonable work loads and should be able to get to know each resident well.
*Able to offer a full-time social worker and a licensed doctor on staff. Both these professionals should be reached at all times and ideally should be in the home daily.
*Well-established. A good nursing home should have a management team that has worked together for at least one year and should have an established record of treating residents well.
*Comfortable for each resident. Each resident should have a room with store space, personal belongings, furniture, water pitchers, a personal telephone and television. If roommates are necessary, each resident should be able to select their own roommate.
*Clear on policies. Polices about personal possessions, shared rooms, privacy, and resident rights should be posted and made clear to each resident and family.
*Safe. Exits should be clearly marked. A nursing home must have smoke detectors and sprinklers. There should be an emergency evacuation plan and regular fire drills. Preventative care – such as flu shots – should be available to all residents. Residents should continue to have access to their regular doctors as well as access to nursing home staff health professionals. A nearby hospital should be available for emergencies. Care plan meetings with family should be held regularly. A nursing home must have met all Federal or State requirements on its last state inspection.
*Able to offer healthy food items and snacks that are nutritious and varied. Residents should have a choice of items for each meal and assistance with eating, if it is required.
*Active. Residents should have a number of activities to choose from. There should be an outdoor area and indoor recreational areas, as well as an active volunteer program and staff who can help residents take part in the activities of their choice.