An article in the August 2016 American Bar Association Journal discusses whether regulatory fines and nursing home litigation improves nursing home care. Essentially, the article concludes that both fines and lawsuits against nursing homes do not significantly improve care. Nursing home owners use tactics to separate their corporations and negotiate with state regulators to decrease fines when violations are found. The appeal of fines imposed by state regulators can take years to resolve and may ultimately be reduced through settlement. Most lawsuits against nursing homes settle and frequently include confidentiality clauses that prohibit public disclosure of the facility’s identity and the settlement terms.

This article underlines the importance of families checking on their loved ones in nursing homes to make certain they are receiving proper care. To increase profits, nursing home owners will try to do with the minimum amount of staff resulting in them being overworked and unable to provide necessary care to their residents.  

When selecting a nursing home, checking online sources as to the facilities’ ratings of care and existence of violations is a good start, but insufficient to ensure good care will be provided.  Visit prospective homes to see firsthand how the residents are treated.  Talk to the families of existing residents to get their thoughts on the care and attention provided, whether the facility provides regular activities, do call lights seem to be answered by staff promptly (if not, it may indicate insufficient staffing), and whether the food is varied and flavorful.  See whether the facility looks and smells clean, and whether there seems to be sufficient staff interacting with the residents.  

Once a nursing home is selected, families must continue their vigilance. Steps that should be taken to increase the likelihood of appropriate care actually being rendered to your loved one include the following: (1) Make it known to the staff that you will be visiting frequently and asking questions about the residence. (2) Ask that you be contacted if there is a change in the resident’s medication and/or condition. (3) Ask if the resident is eating and, better yet, be present during meal time to make certain the resident receives sufficient nutrition. (4) Periodically examine the resident’s skin for any signs of breakdown. If you see redness, bring it to the attention of the nurse and ask what will be done to heal the skin. Then, make certain you inspect the skin regularly to see if the treatment being rendered is effective. If the skin condition is not improving, you must contact the attending physician and demand that different treatment be provided. (5) Are precautions in place to prevent falls?  (6) Are gait belts or other equipment regularly used to assist residents during transfers? (7) Get to know the attending physician and speak with him/her regularly to make certain that whether he/she is aware of your loved one’s condition and what treatment he/she has ordered. 

The above list, although by no means complete, will increase the likelihood of your loved one receiving appropriate care and, in the process, hopefully make their stay in a nursing home more enjoyable.