Are your loved ones safe in Ohio nursing homes?

The Plain Dealer launches investigation into conditions at Ohio nursing homes

On March 19, John Caniglia and Jo Ellen Corrigan of The Plain Dealer published the initial findings of a multi-part investigation into Ohio’s nursing homes. Their report reveals a number of concerning statistics about the quality of care in facilities around the state and highlights tragic incidents of negligence and abuse.  Continue reading “Are your loved ones safe in Ohio nursing homes?”

5 tips from an Ohio nursing home neglect lawyer for choosing a good nursing home for a family member

By Craig McLaughlin

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau recorded the greatest number of people age 65 and older in census history.  The number was 40.3 million people, or 13% of the population, and that number is only going to go up into the future.  As people live longer, many Ohioans are going to need medical care and assistance that can only be found at a nursing home.  There are almost 1,000 nursing homes in Ohio. So how can you find out what is a good nursing home vs. a bad one? Here are 5 quick tips to help you select a nursing home for your family member.

1. Check out the nursing home on the Ohio Department of Health and Medicare websites

choosing the right nursing home
Photo: Ulrich Joho/CC BY 2.0

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is responsible for monitoring and regulating nursing homes in Ohio.  These facilities are subject to regular inspections by investigators from the ODH.  The ODH puts out the Long-Term Care Consumer Guide which contains inspection reports, facility details, family satisfaction survey scores, and resident satisfaction survey scores.

Many Ohio nursing home residents pay for their care by using Medicare and Medicaid.  In order for a nursing home to receive payment from the government, it must comply with minimum standards that are established.  The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services monitors and compares these facilities to see which ones are doing a good job. Their website, Nursing Home Compare, contains quality of care information on more than 15,000 nursing homes.

2. Visit the nursing home to see how the staff interacts with each other

I recommend that you actually go and visit the nursing home and spend an hour or two in the waiting area or other common areas of the facility and just observe what happens in a typical day.  Pay attention to how the nurses, therapists, and aides interact with each other.  Chances are if they are being rude to each other, then they are going to be rude to your family member, especially when you’re not there.  Also, watch to see if they are taking the time to talk to the residents or are too busy gossiping with each other and are ignoring the residents.

3. Ask questions of the nurses and nurse’s aides

In the past, many of the owners of Ohio nursing homes lived in the same community and knew many of the residents before they even started living at the nursing home.  They treated the residents like family.  This has changed as more and more nursing homes are bought up by large national corporations who are more concerned with cutting costs in order to improve their stock price.  With Medicare reimbursement and Medicaid reimbursement rates remaining flat and expenses going up, this often results in staffing of the nursing homes being kept to the bare legal minimum. This means nurses and aides are often overworked and underpaid.

I encourage you to ask actual nurses and nurse’s aides at the nursing home how long they have been at that particular facility.  If the nurses and aides have been there a long time, then that is a good sign the employees are being compensated fairly, are not being stretched too thin, and will likely provide better care to your family member.  Also, ask them if they work a lot of overtime or double shifts. If the answer is yes, then that can be a bad sign that patient care is going to be negatively affected by short staffing.  Please remember you need to get past the marketing person who is giving you a fancy brochure and a tour of the facility and ask questions of the actual care providers.

4. Give the nursing home the smell test

It’s a sad fact aging can lead to the loss of bowel and bladder control.  A person’s medication can also cause gas.  These things can lead to some unpleasant, but not unexpected smells, at a nursing home.  However, if the facility smells like stale urine, then that can be a sign the nursing home is not being cleaned routinely or correctly.

5. Give the nursing home the taste test

Ask the nursing home if you can eat a meal in the dining area. Where the residents eat, how the food looks, and how it tastes is also a good indicator of the quality of care your family member will receive at the nursing home. If a lot of the residents eat their meals in their rooms instead of the dining area, then that can be a sign that they are not receiving a lot of attention from the staff.  Is the food visually appealing? Is it edible? Food is often very important not only for good physical health, but also can improve the spirits of your family member.

With the baby boomer generation getting older and people living longer, it should be no surprise that new nursing homes are being built in Ohio.  But how do you know if these new facilities or existing nursing homes are any good? If you are faced with the difficult decision of putting your loved one into a nursing home or some type of assisted living facility, then I encourage you to follow these five tips in order to select a safe place for your family member.

 

Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents, and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

 

Benzodiazepines Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Most of us take medications knowing there is a risk of side effects, but that risk is small, right? Surely the FDA ensures the health benefits outweigh these minor inconveniences, right? But what if I told you that if your grandmother took a sleeping pill, she’d be 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease? Do I have your attention now?

Benzodiazepines linked to Alzheimer's Disease.A study published in the British Journal of Medicine has yielded some startling results. Researchers found that for older adults who took benzodiazepines for at least 90 days, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was increased by 43% to 51% during a five year period.

The study also revealed that people who were on a long-acting benzodiazepine like diazepam (Valium) and flurazepam (Dalmane) were at greater risk than those on a short-acting one like triazolam (Halcion), lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and temazepam (Restoril).

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and a range of other conditions. Commonly known as tranquilizers, these medications act directly on the brain and central nervous system, affecting a person’s mood. They are one of the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S., particularly among elderly patients. Benzos are commonly divided in groups:

Short-acting anti-anxiety benzodiazepines

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • oxazepam (Seresta)
  • diazepam (Valium)

Longer-acting anti-seizure and “hypnotic” drugs frequently used to treat insomnia:

  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • flurazepam (Dalmane)midazolam (Versed)
  • nitrazepam (Mogadon)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • triazolam (Halcion)

The authors of the study warn that doctors should “carefully balance the benefits and risks when initiating or renewing a treatment with benzodiazepines and related products in older patients.” Although the study only included elderly patients, it is important for people of all ages to discuss the use of benzodiazepines with their health care provider.

Other Risks

It is important to note that benzodiazepines may pose other serious risks for seniors. In 2012, the American Geriatrics Society added benzodiazepines to their list of Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. The group warned that an increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and decreased metabolism of long-acting agents could pose serious dangers, stating, “In general, all benzodiazepines increase risk of cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, fractures, and motor vehicle accidents in older adults.”

Source:

de Gage, S.B., Moride, Y., Ducruet, T., et al. Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study. BMJ 2014; 349:g5205. Published September 9, 2014. Accessed October 29, 2014.

Using Technology to Prevent Bedsores

For millions of Americans, staying in a long-term healthcare facility means an increased risk of developing bedsores. Also known as pressure ulcers, these skin lesions can cause serious and painful infections of the skin, bones and joints. Complications can include tissue and nerve damage, organ failure and even cancer.

Bedsores can be prevented.The best way to prevent pressure sores from occurring is to reposition patients frequently – doctors recommend changing positions every two hours. Unfortunately, with many nursing homes and other long-term healthcare facilities woefully understaffed, many patients are neglected. As a result, more than 2.5 million people in the United States develop pressure ulcers every ear.

Preventing Bedsores with Patient Monitors

An exciting new medical device may hold the answer to this pervasive medical mistake. A company called Leaf Healthcare, Inc. has developed a wearable patient sensor, which can help medical professionals reduce bedsores. Created for healthcare facilities, the Leaf System is comprised of patient sensors and a wireless central monitoring system. The system electronically monitors patients’ position and movements, recording each time a patient is moved and alerting caregivers when patients need to be repositioned.

Leaf Healthcare recently conducted a multiphase clinical trial, which yielded encouraging results. According to a news release, “The study showed that use of the device increased compliance with hospital turn protocols – a standard of care method to prevent pressure ulcers – from a baseline of 64 percent at the start of the trial to 98 percent after the monitoring system was deployed.”

Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

Section 3721.13 of the Ohio Revised Code provides residents of nursing homes with certain rights. Among these is the right to an “adequate and appropriate” level of care, which includes taking steps to prevent bedsores. If you have questions about nursing home neglect or abuse, including whether standards of care are being met, contact our experienced attorneys for a free, confidential case review.

 

*Links to other sites are for informational purposes only. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on the web sites or any association with their operators. 

 

Sources:

Tarver, Chris; Schutt, Suann; Pezzani, Michelle. “We’re Sensing You! A Multiphase Clinical Trial Examining Innovative Technology to Improve Patient-Turning Compliance.” [Presentation]. ANCC National Magnet Conference® Dallas, TX. 08 October 2014 to 10 October 2014.

 Leaf Healthcare, Inc., (16 Oct. 2014). “Study Shows Leaf Healthcare Wearable Sensor Dramatically Improves Compliance with Pressure-Ulcer Prevention Efforts.” [Press Release]. [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].