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When you check a nursing home, remember that it is only as good as the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s) who actually take care of most patient needs. Nurses are often supervisors. It is the CNA who usually lets patients fall or leaves them soiled, hungry or thirsty. Nurses and Doctors can be equally to blame for the bedsores, starvation, and dehydration as well as for over-medication, wrong medication, and allowing pressure sores to develop. You should see how well these people do their jobs before you send a loved one to live under their care.
Ask questions! Ask any residents willing to talk about how often they are bathed. Do aides come when a call button is pushed? Do they have access to phones? Is the food edible? Are visitors encouraged or discouraged? Have there been any thefts? Any assaults of patients by staff? Falls? Have there been any burning or scalding incidents?
Look for water! Is there a decanter of fresh, cool water near every patient? Are there plenty of juices and milk available? If not, dehydration, a potentially fatal problem in nursing homes, may be present. Look for dryness of lips, mouths and eyes in patients. Also look at patients for signs of dopiness and disorientation, which may be related to dehydration.
Improper administration of drugs may also cause health problems! Do many of the residents appear sleepy, depressed, confused or disoriented? Try to speak to at least three residents. Sometimes nursing homes may drug their patients needlessly to make them easier to control. Is patients’ hair combed and clean? Is clothing stained? Does it smell bad? If you are not allowed to speak to residents, there may be a good chance that patients are not being taken care of well there.
Look out for malnutrition! This is caused by not eating enough of the right foods and not ingesting enough vitamins and minerals. It may cause deterioration of the skin, confusion, depression, disorientation and even death. It sometimes occurs in nursing homes for many reasons, an important one being that the food is not eaten because the food tastes bad or because there are not enough workers in the nursing home to feed those who cannot feed themselves.
Check the food! Is it well-prepared and fresh? Are here enough CNA’s to help everyone who needs assistance to eat? Look in the back dining room on a weekend evening, not a front or “show” dining area. Is the food what you would pay for and eat? Is there fresh fruit? Are the portions of meat large enough? Are many plates untouched? Is the food actually being eaten? Are there too few aides scrambling around to get food into too many mouths?
Ask about the staffing levels. It has been written that there should be at least one CNA for every 5 to 8 patients, and if there are many patients in wheelchairs, there should be even more CNA’s. The best time to judge is at night or on weekends, when nursing home administrators may be tempted to understaff because these are often unpopular working hours for CNA’s.
Find out if doctors make personal visits there. Ask residents. Ask the staff for proof. Over-the-phone prescriptions are no substitute for actual face-to-face care.
Does the nursing home’s administration allow the CNA’s to see the “Plan of Care”? If they do not, this means that the CNA’s may not know what the doctors have planned for the patients there. A home that fails in this regard may be a very dangerous place in which to live.
Contact the District Clerk in the county where the nursing home is located. There you can find out the number of times that the nursing home has been a defendant in a negligence lawsuit. This may give you some ideas about the nursing home’s reputation.
For more information and for a FREE, confidential talk with Steven Atsalis, Injury Lawyer, you can call TOLL-FREE 1-800-787-8281.