Nursing home abuse is about more than staff neglecting residents p3

We are talking about the increasing risk of aggressive behavior among nursing home residents. A couple of studies have documented the trend, and individual examples provide more than enough reason to be concerned. This is not an easy issue to discussion, much less to resolve. There are a hundred different moving parts to consider. There are also some basic steps that the government and facilities can take to reduce the risk to the elderly and vulnerable.

The Tennessee Department of Health has provided one helpful tool: the health care facilities database. A user can search for the names and contact information for all types of facilities -- nursing homes, hospice care, hospitals, assisted care living facility, adult care home. Each listing includes the number of beds, the license status and other basic information about the facility.

If you want quality measures, though, you need the federal site, NursingHomeCompare.gov. If you want to know the difference between an adult care home and a nursing home, though, it appears you are on your own. Explanations of services typical to that type of care facility are not easy to find.

So how do you know if your elderly father who is suffering from dementia will not be sharing space with someone who is emotionally unstable or who has a diagnosed psychiatric condition that may be associated with violent outbursts? The state does require background checks for staff members working with the residents, allowing facilities to identify registered sex offenders and workers with a history of (reported) abuse.

But the danger is not the staff. How carefully do facilities evaluate residents before admitting them? If they mix populations, are staff members trained to handle violent outbursts? In one case in another state, when a male resident brutally attacked an elderly woman, it took three nurses to restrain him.

There is a good deal of room for improvement. Policymakers could demand changes to screening requirements or development of regulations about which populations can safely coexist. The facilities themselves could do a better job of defining the types of care they can provide, the types of residents they are qualified to care for.

Baby boomers are beginning to retire, and the care system could soon be overwhelmed. How will each facility, each network, each state and the federal government prepare?

Sources:

The Virginian-Pilot/New America Media, "Elder Abuse Rising in Care Facilities Mixing the Frail and the Disturbed," Elizabeth Simpson, Feb. 25, 2015

Tennessee Department of Health, Health Care Facilities at http://health.state.tn.us/hcf

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