The elderly, chronically ill, and disabled are among some of the most vulnerable populations in the United States. When nursing homes fail to provide adequate care to their residents, the resulting harm can be life-altering and may prevent victims from living their final years as comfortably as possible.
Many of the laws and regulations that currently govern nursing homes were created decades ago and no longer reflect the modern lives and needs of residents. At the Law Office of Todd W. Burris, we strongly believe that there are actionable steps that we can take to improve nursing homes in Kentucky.
Why Do We Need To Improve Nursing Homes in Kentucky?
We choose nursing homes where we think our loved ones will be properly cared for, but the reality is that many of these long-term residential facilities cause significant harm to their elderly patients. A 2014 report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that 33% of Medicare beneficiaries who lived in a skilled nursing facility suffered an adverse medical event in the first 35 days of their residency. Approximately 60% of those adverse medical events were determined to be preventable.
Our elderly family members are being actively harmed by the men and women charged with their care. Without significant changes to the current standards and regulations that govern Kentucky nursing homes, the population of older adults in Kentucky will continue to suffer unnecessary injuries, illnesses, and even death.
Here are some key ways that would greatly improve the lives of nursing home residents and lower the chances of abuse and neglect occurring in facilities:
Greater Financial Transparency
According to the White House, residents of nursing homes owned by private equity companies have an 11% greater risk of going to the emergency room for a preventable medical issue than residents of other for-profit facilities that are not backed by private equity.
Creating regulations for greater financial transparency could potentially eliminate the concern that residents are suffering, all for the sake of increasing someone else’s bottom line. It would also prevent nursing homes from claiming there is not enough money to hire additional staff, all while funneling extra profits to owners, shareholders, and investors.
The financial priority of nursing homes should be the residents, not creating profits.
Increase Registered Nurse Requirements
Current regulations only require one registered nurse to be on duty at any given time. Increasing the number of registered nurses required to be on duty would positively impact resident safety and well-being.
A study of COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing homes found that there was a 22% decrease in COVID-19 cases and a 26% decrease in COVID-19 deaths when nursing facilities increased their registered nurse staff numbers by as little as 20 minutes per day.
Registered nurses (RNs) provide high-quality, specialized care that cannot be replicated by certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Hiring more registered nurses and increasing the number of on-duty RNs throughout the day and night would lower the rate of preventable adverse medical events and improve patient outcomes for all residents.
Implement Better Infection Control Standards
Infection prevention and control deficiencies were detected in 82% of inspected nursing homes between 2013 and 2017. Many nursing home residents are already suffering from one or more conditions when they enter care, including chronic diseases, depressed immune systems, and fragile skin. Exposure to a preventable or controllable infection is inexcusable when current technology and federal guidelines provide clear guidance for nursing homes.
Some of the biggest contributing factors to lackluster infection prevention and control standards include:
- Staffing inadequacies
- Repeated cost-cutting efforts
- Insufficient staff training on basic hygiene practices, including hand washing
- Lack of resources, including personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves
- Knowledge gaps among staff
- Poor workplace culture and attitude toward infections
Anyone who has witnessed their loved one suffer from a preventable illness or infection can recognize the importance of making the above changes at both the legislative and company level.
Reduce Social Isolation
Nursing homes must recognize that the overall well-being of their residents comes down to more than just physical health. The emotional state of nursing home residents can have a profound impact on their physical state, as well as their ability to fully enjoy their final years.
Social isolation or a lack of connection with other people (including other residents, family, and friends) is associated with a:
- 50% increase in risk of dementia
- 32% increase in risk of stroke
- 29% increase in risk of a coronary heart disease event, including heart attack
There are hurdles to increasing opportunities for socialization in nursing homes, but that is not an excuse for facilities to continue to allow their residents to suffer the life-altering consequences of social isolation. For example, regularly video chatting with family members and friends is associated with a 50% decrease in depressive symptoms among residents. Purchasing iPads or other tablets with video chat capabilities is recommended for nursing home facilities.
Create Improved Systems for Oversight and Reporting
Current regulations for reporting problems in nursing homes may appear to be detailed and strict, with little to no room for error. The problem does not necessarily lie with how the current guidelines are written but with how they are enforced.
Every nursing home facility should have clear guidelines for identifying and reporting:
- Chemical and physical restraints
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Lack of supervision for eating, walking, and other activities
- Insufficient staffing
- Lack of privacy when getting dressed, bathing, or using the restroom
- Physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse
- Lack of access to proper nutrition or hydration
- Failure to call 911 for a medical emergency
Improved consequences for nursing home facilities and staff members who do not promptly identify and report the above issues would create a safer environment for all residents. Making a report should be as easy as possible, and staff members should not feel as if they will be penalized for reporting problems at their facility.
More Ways To Improve Nursing Homes in Kentucky
Every nursing home resident has the right to live their final years with dignity. Here are some additional changes that could create a better environment for all residents:
- Every nursing home facility should create and maintain a culture of care.
- Staff should be empowered and receive enough support to fulfill their job duties.
- Resident room crowding should be reduced to allow for more privacy and reduced transmission of infections and illnesses.
- Shifting away from the for-profit model would allow for better care and treatment in nursing home facilities.
- Nursing homes should partner with hospitals to create streamlined care, especially in the case of emergencies.
If your loved one was hurt as the result of nursing home abuse or neglect, they may be owed compensation for their damages like medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and more.
While we know that a nursing home abuse lawsuit cannot undo the harm they’ve already suffered, holding a negligent facility responsible for its actions can ensure a more comfortable future for your elderly family member. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation so we can discuss your loved one’s legal options.