If you are going to die tomorrow, you have a right to be treated with dignity today.
When the time comes that our older loved ones need more care than we can safely provide in our homes (or theirs), we often search for a safe, comfortable place for elderly parents or other older loved ones to live. Many families opt for a nursing home or assisted living facility. Unfortunately, even thorough investigation does not always reveal the hidden problems in the places we choose.
Who regulates Virginia nursing homes?
In Virginia, nursing homes are regulated by both federal and state laws the purpose of which is to provide safe and healthful facilities for our elderly. Virginia law requires that all nursing facilities be licensed to operate in Virginia. There are currently 265 licensed facilities in Virginia, all but fifteen of which are also certified for federal reimbursement under Medicare and Medicaid. Both the Virginia and federal laws require that every facility pass an inspection, that certain staff-to-resident ratios be maintained, and that residents' nutritional needs be reassessed at least every three months.
The Virginia Department of Health Long Term Care Division regulates Virginia nursing homes. Its web site has links to pages where you can get information on nursing home regulations, nursing home inspections, and how to file nursing home complaints.
What are the most common deficiencies in Virginia nursing homes?
The Long Term Care Division also publishes annual data on deficiencies in Virginia nursing homes.
- For the past three years, the number one health deficiency in nursing home facilities has been in providing necessary care for the highest practicable well-being of residents.
- That means that the biggest problem in nursing homes in Virginia is giving the residents the best care practicable (not possible, just practicable) to maintain their health.
- The second most frequent health deficiency in Virginia nursing homes for the past three years is that clinical records do not meet professional standards.
Frankly, a lack of complete clinical records can contribute to a facility's failure to provide the best practicable health care for its residents. Balls get dropped. Doctors and nurses on different shifts don't have all the information necessary to do their job, and the residents suffer. In some cases, evidence has been uncovered that staff had "charting parties" where the staff would get together and fill in the blanks in the residents' charts because they had gotten behind in their charting. Charting parties have been known to happen shortly before inspections are due.
Unfortunately, once you have found a long-term care facility for your loved one, your job is not over. If we have learned anything, it is that you must be diligent on behalf of your elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.
What is the ROOT cause of most nursing home deficiencies?
Of all the different ways your loved one can be injured in a nursing home or assisted living facility, there is one root cause: UNDERSTAFFING.
With adequate staffing, pressure sores can be prevented because residents are moved more.
With adequate staffing, falls can be prevented because systems designed to alert staff of wandering residents are heard.
Adequate staffing can prevent medication errors because staff are not tired or overworked, enabling them to focus and think about what they are doing.
And with adequate staffing, your loved one's nutrition can be more carefully monitored.
Adequate staffing isn't the only answer; it won't prevent all nursing home and assisted living injuries and deaths. But it will go a long way toward keeping our older loved ones safer and enabling them to enjoy their golden years.
Why are some nursing homes understaffed?
Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are owned and operated by for-profit corporations. One of the largest overhead expenses is the cost of hiring, training, and retaining professional staff to care for the residents. A nursing home corporation's choice to keep staffing costs low will increase its profits. That choice also results in inadequate number of staff, inadequately trained staff, and a very high turnover rate among the staff-which means poor care for the residents.
Even worse, there is no minimum level of staffing in Virginia nursing homes, so corporate for-profit nursing homes do not have a magic number they must meet.
What are the most common health issues in nursing homes?
Some of the most common issues in nursing homes include:
Malnutrition and Dehydration