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Nursing Homes: Telling the Good from the Bad

For those with loved ones in Florida nursing homes, it can be terrifying to hear the horror stories of abuse and neglect that sometimes occur in these long-term care facility. And it is not just the “bad” places; neglect happens in all sorts of facilities. According to research by the National Center on Elder Abuse – a division of the Federal Administration on Aging – approximately 44 percent of the 3.2 million Americans residing in nursing homes have experienced abuse, while over 90 percent have witnessed it. This begs the question, “How does one find a good place for loved ones?”

What are the key things to look for?

When meeting with the sales and marketing staff of a nursing home, remember that these people are trained to focus on the things you want most. You and your loved one want autonomy, highly skilled nursing staff, good food, and aesthetically appealing surroundings. Most facilities will quickly meet these requirements. But if you look further, you might see what lies beneath the surface. Here are a few things to look out for.

Smells

Do you detect any odd smells? We all know nursing homes have a special odor. It usually accompanies common medical sanitizers and so forth. But if you are in the facility for over an hour and notice pervasive smells of urine or feces that are not resolved, this may indicate residents are soiling themselves and not being quickly tended to. Likewise, it may indicate a lack of staff, since a properly staffed facility should be able to tend to these needs quickly. Poor staffing is a huge problem.

Staffing

As stated earlier, staffing is a big problem. Every state has a strict statutory requirement for the number of caregivers, nurses and other staff that are required based on the population (or census) of the facility. State regulators can fine nursing homes that violate staffing levels. Nevertheless, some unscrupulous owners have been known to skirt the rules because it is far more profitable to pay the fines than pay for extra staffing. It is a dangerous game, but plenty of facilities play it. If you see very few workers, there may be a problem. Untended rooms, spills, smells, or similar problems may indicate a lack of proper staffing.

Inattention

Just because there are plenty of workers present does not mean they are being effective. You may see residents “parked” in the hallways, sitting in wheelchairs. This type of “parking lot” is not appropriate. Look for chair alarms too. You can look at the back of a wheelchair and see a small alarm pack. If a resident gets out of his wheelchair equipped with such an alarm, it should emit a loud, shrill alarm. If a resident gets out of an equipped chair and begins to walk without an alarm, this may indicate malfunctioning equipment, failure to change batteries, or simply laziness on the part of staff. This can lead to falls and deadly fractures for residents at risk of falling.

Where else to look

In addition to using your own senses – including common sense – there are great online resources to check out. Medicare.gov now offers a nursing home comparison tool that some have found helpful. Another great resource is to contact an attorney who handles nursing home negligence and malpractice cases near you. They typically know the good facilities and the bad. Some find services like “A Place for Mom” helpful. However, you should be very cautious when relying on information provided by these types of companies. They are not independent. They are referral services who are paid by the nursing homes. Therefore, they get paid to direct people to the nursing homes that pay their fees. Thus, they have a financial incentive to refer you to certain facilities, regardless of quality.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Florida nursing home, you should contact an aggressive and experienced personal injury attorney right away to find out your options. Throughout the Bradenton and Tampa Bay areas, the Romero Law Firm provides skilled representation to injury victims. Call today for a free consultation.

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