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Nursing Home Checklist for Families

A Practical and Legal Checklist for Families in the Challenging Process of Selecting a Nursing Home

Families that do not have the skills or resources to care for an elderly person are often faced with the difficult decision of finding a suitable nursing or elder care facility for that person. More than 16,000 nursing facilities are currently in operation in the United States. Many of them provide excellent care and services, but a number continue to be reported for violations of federal and state standards. Other have been named in lawsuits alleging that their negligence and inattentiveness has resulted in serious and life-threatening injuries.

 Consider the Following Benefits Legal Counsel Can Offer in Your Search for a Good Nursing Home

By the time that most families consider the involvement of legal counsel, extensive amounts of paperwork, word of mouth networking, internet research, and other attempts to find the right place for their loved one has left families highly uncertain on how to proceed, or with a dearth of viable options in light of what information was uncovered initially. In any case, further, in-depth legal knowledge is critical in determining the relative safety of a given nursing home facility. Attorneys who focus their practices on elder care issues are familiar with elder care and nursing facilities across the country. In this legal discipline, which has significant crossover with government regulatory officials and non-profits promoting the proper treatment of the elderly, all have access to information that is generally not reported in public ranking or, if it is reported, it is buried beneath layers of generalizations.

Most elder care lawyers minimally consider the following elements often inaccessible to the general public, when making the most informed decision in any given nursing home selection process, including:

  • What violations have been reported and recorded against the facility? Federal and state governments maintain databases of reported violations. One or two occasional violations are not atypical of most facilities, but a few facilities have a history of repeated or multiple different violations. Consult with an elder care attorney for more information on how to access this information.
  • Is there any pending or resolved litigation naming the facility or its staff as defendants? If so, what claims were argued in the lawsuit? What injuries did the plaintiff suffer? How was the case resolved (e.g. did it go to trial or was it settled?)
  • What is the reported staff turnover for the care facility? The personnel and caregivers at poorly-rated facilities are typically less experienced and have been with those facilities for less time. Professional and conscientious caregivers will not want to be associated with a facility that does not allow them to exercise appropriate standards of care. Look for a facility that has longer-tenured staff members.
  • What programs or activities does the facility offer for its residents? If a nursing home’s elderly residents are confined to one or two rooms for the better part of each day, the quality of care in that facility is more likely to be sub-standard. Injuries and dangerous conditions arise when a facility’s residents are not active or engaged in their surroundings.
  • Does the prospective elder care resident require unique services that only certain facilities offer (e.g. dementia care, or care for other chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis)? If so, check the facility’s ratings for those particular services.
  • Does the nursing facility rely excessively on sleeping pills and relaxants to pacify its residents? This information will be difficult to determine with any real certainty. An elder law attorney may have information from industry sources that is relevant to this question, but more often this can only be gleaned from interviews with current or former residents of the facility.
  • What costs and fees will the resident be charged, separately and apart from any insurance or Medicare reimbursements? Elder abuse includes not only physical or psychological neglect, but also financial fraud. Ask questions about costs, expenses, invoicing and billing policies. Read all residence contracts or, if the contracts are too dense, ask an elder care attorney to read and summarize those contracts for you.
  • What other health care proxies and documents are residents asked to provide? Health care powers of attorney will include an elderly resident’s end-of-life options and describe how those options are to be administered. Find out if residents are required to provide other restate documents, including copies of wills or powers of attorney over a resident’s finances.
  • What personal reactions do you have to the facility? Frequently an arguably irrelevant intuition will tell you the last piece of information you need to make a decision. If your instincts tell you that something is amiss with an elder care facility, you should trust your instincts.

Legal Due Diligence Is Readily Available to those Seeking Out the Best Nursing Home for Their Family Members or Loved Ones

This is a fundamental due diligence list of general topics that you and an elderly relative or loved one should consider in the course of making a nursing home decision.  It is not a definitive list nor is it a guarantee that your chosen facility will provide adequate care. Selecting a nursing home is the beginning of a process that does not terminate. If a nursing home resident experiences injuries in spite of all of your due diligence, you may need to initiate litigation against the facility and its staff in order to recover compensation for those injuries. An elder care attorney will be best able to assist you at every stage of this process.

 

 

References:

 

http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-02-99-00040.pdf

https://www.cms.gov/medicare/provider-enrollment-and-certification/certificationandcomplianc/nhs.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2915498/

http://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/family-member/A-Consumer-Guide-To-Choosing-A-Nursing-Home.pdf

https://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/02174.pdf

http://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/family-member/A-Consumer-Guide-To-Choosing-A-Nursing-Home.pdf

 

https://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/02174.pdf

https://www.medicare.gov/files/nursing-home-checklist.pdf

 

 

 

 

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