When it comes to entrusting the care of an elderly loved one to a nursing home, it is crucial to make informed decisions. Not all nursing homes provide the quality of care they advertise, and some could even put your loved ones at risk. Brown & Barron, a law firm known for our commitment to protecting the rights of those subjected to nursing home abuse, hopes to equip you with the knowledge to identify potential red flags in a nursing home setting before they can cause an injury or issue. By understanding these warning signals, you can better protect your loved ones and ensure they receive the level of care they deserve.

Use Nursing Home Resources

A practical starting point to spot potential red flags in nursing homes is to leverage the rating resources readily available to the public. The official Nursing Home Care Compare website, managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), provides a quality rating system that assigns each nursing home a rating of between 1 and 5 stars. Yet, it's important to approach these ratings with caution as they are often based on self-reported data, which may be subject to bias and possibly unreliable.

State-level Departments of Health also typically offer nursing home ratings for you to consider. In addition, U.S. News is considered a trusted nationwide source of news and information, and it has a comprehensive list of assessments for over 15,000 nursing homes, providing another valuable resource for comparison. Lastly, don't underestimate the power of online reviews from third-party sources like Google Business reviews. These can provide real-time, firsthand experiences from individuals and their families who have interacted with the nursing home, offering an additional layer of insight into the everyday operations of the facility.

Identify Poor Illness Prevention Methods

A thorough review of a nursing home's health and infection records can indeed provide significant insights into its overall care quality. The frequency and severity of illnesses among the residents, especially infectious diseases like COVID-19, are crucial indicators to consider. Infection control is a key aspect of seniors' care. Vulnerable due to age and comorbidities, they are particularly susceptible to infections.

A well-managed nursing home must have effective infection prevention protocols, such as:

  • Regular hand hygiene
  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Isolation of sick residents
  • Routine cleaning and disinfection

During a pandemic like COVID-19, these procedures become even more critical. Nursing homes should promptly identify and manage any potential cases. If you find that a particular nursing home has a high rate of infections or has experienced outbreaks, it could be a warning sign of inadequate infection control policies or poor implementation.

Consider Staff-to-Resident Ratios

Adequate staffing is one of the most critical aspects of high-quality care in a nursing home. Having enough well-qualified staff members ensures that residents receive timely and attentive care, which significantly contributes to their overall health and well-being.

High turnover rates among staff members can be a red flag. Frequent personnel changes may disrupt the continuity of care and can indicate underlying issues such as poor working conditions or management problems.

Moreover, understaffing is another serious concern. Insufficient staff numbers can lead to nutritional neglect, increased risk of falls, medication errors, and abuse. When there aren't enough caretakers and security staff, it becomes challenging to consistently meet each resident's needs.

To check for adequate staffing in a nursing home, you can:

  • Visit the facility: A personal visit allows you to observe the staff-resident interactions, the cleanliness of the facility, and whether residents' needs are being met promptly.
  • Ask questions: Inquire about the staff-to-resident ratio, turnover rates, and how they handle staffing shortages. Also, ask about the qualifications and training of their staff. A good nursing home should not shy away from tough questions.
  • Read reviews and reports: Look at online reviews and inspection reports. They can give you insights into the experiences of other families and any potential staffing issues.

Conduct Simple Tests for Nursing Home Responsiveness

Testing the responsiveness of a nursing home can provide valuable insights into their communication and management practices. You don’t need to hire someone or get complicated with your testing methods, either. A few simple things can be done that may shed considerable insight into the safety and reliability of a nursing home or assisted living center.

A few strategies you can use that don’t take any resources and not much time are:

  1. Phone calls: Call the nursing home and observe how long it takes for them to answer the phone. If it takes a long time or multiple calls to get through, it may indicate they are understaffed or disorganized.
  2. Requesting callbacks: When you call, request a callback from a manager or a specific department. Note how long it takes for them to get back to you and if the right person completes the call. This can give you an idea of their commitment to communication and customer service.
  3. Email inquiries: Send an email requesting more information about a particular topic, such as their services, fees, or resident activities. Gauge how comprehensive and helpful their response is and how long it took them to reply. This will show you their level of professionalism and willingness to provide necessary information.

Walk the Grounds Yourself

Lastly, an in-person visit is perhaps the most effective way to assess a nursing home's quality of care and safety. It allows you to directly observe the environment, staff behavior, and resident interactions.

To evaluate a nursing home center in person, you should take these steps:

  1. Schedule a tour: Start by calling the nursing home and asking for a tour. If the staff or manager seems hesitant or refuses, it could be a red flag. A reputable nursing home should be open to prospective residents and their families visiting the facility.
  2. Observe cleanliness: During your visit, pay close attention to the cleanliness and upkeep of the facility. Look for signs of neglect or poor hygiene like dirty floors, unpleasant odors, or unclean restrooms, which could indicate a lack of adequate housekeeping staff or poor management.
  3. Assess resident behavior: Watch the residents closely. Are they engaged in activities? Do they appear content and well cared for? Unresponsive or unhappy residents could suggest problems with care or stimulation.
  4. Evaluate staff conduct: Notice how the staff interacts with the residents. They should be respectful, patient, and kind. Rude or dismissive behavior towards residents is unacceptable and a serious red flag.
  5. Mealtimes: If possible, try to visit during meal times. This can provide insights into the quality of food, dietary options, and the overall dining experience of the residents.

Legal Help to Take the Next Steps

If you’re worried that inadequate care is being provided to your senior loved one in a Maryland nursing home, especially after you’ve used several methods to check for red flags, the next thing you should do is talk to a nursing home abuse lawyer from Brown & Barron. We have deliberately focused our practice on nursing home abuse and neglect cases, claims, and lawsuits. Our team is standing by to assess your situation and determine if you have grounds to start a nursing home abuse claim.

Call (410) 698-1717 to arrange a no-cost consultation with Brown & Barron.

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