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Nursing Home Safety
Resident Safety in Skilled Nursing Facilities

According to the Joint Commission, hospitals with safety culture interventions practice improved safety and outcomes. The Commission reported that studies in nursing homes reported a poorly developed safety culture. The voluntary accreditation, sponsored by The Joint Commission, provides a structure for care processes known to stimulate continuous quality improvement, to yield better safety outcomes for nursing homes.

The Joint Commission accreditation appeared association with a more favorable Resident Safety Culture in nursing homes. Assessing a nursing home's safety culture is the first step toward improving safety. It's the first step for family members to take when in search of a nursing home for a loved one.

Nursing Home Safety

Keep Loved Ones Safe
Keep Loved Ones Safe

Nursing home residents are more exposed to adverse events and medical errors due to cognitive inefficiencies and complex health conditions.

Because of complex medical conditions, residents often take multiple medications which increases the odds for errors and adverse health care events.

For families, use these steps when visiting a nursing home facility for an aging relative or loved one:

Does the facility hire adequate number of staff members to monitor residents 24/7? One key to nursing home safety culture is sufficient care coverage by staff.

  • Check facility door key codes - are door alarm key systems different from door-to-door?
  • Does the facility monitor all door alarms and wander equipment to ensure proper activation and function?
  • Check the response time the staff reacts to triggered alarms? Are the warnings ignored?
  • Check the care plan to learn if it appropriately addresses your loved one's wandering issue?

By holding facility staff accountable, you keep your loved one that much safer.

Resident Safety

Staff Training

It's imperative that nursing homes train staff to detect and report any sign of change n a resident's health condition. By carefully monitoring changes, optimizes residents safety. Looking for health changes and reacting quickly to the problem, decreases risk for falls and other complications.

Training nursing home staff to be watchful for changes in a resident's condition and to effectively communicate those changes is a tool that administrators can employ to improve patient safety. It creates a more resident-centered environment that reduces the number of falls and fall-related injuries.

How to know if staff's trained to respond to health changes:

  • Is a full assessment taken at a time of admission?
  • Is your loved one's daily living activities measured?
  • Is your loved one's ability to move around measured?
  • Is your loved one's ability to sit comfortably and stay balanced during bath-time?
  • Is your loved one asked the preferences for activities, eating, dressing and bedtime?
  • Is your loved one asked how she feels?
  • Is she asked how her symptoms began and when?
  • Is her vital signs taken often?
  • Is she given a general exam and assessment of her cognitive and physical function?
  • Is the assessment well-organized and documented for future changes?

Doing thorough assessments help staff notice changes in a resident's routine.

Recognizing Changes

How well the staff's trained to recognize changes in your loved one's health depends on these factors:

  • At end of shift, does the staff share notes to do comparison checks?
  • Does the staff make sure your loved one has the needed equipment for better care?
  • How often does each staff member check vital signs of the resident?
  • Does the incoming staff know the resident's records of urination and bowel movements?

Nursing Home Safety Culture

Nursing home facilities with high standards of a safety culture are well-trained in the signs of illness in older adults. Residents, as they get older, have slower responses and have little cognizance to change. Many times, the medical staff sees mild symptoms and depend on the way a resident feels or acts for clues to an illness.

Top signs in resident changes:

  • Walking
  • Urination and bowel patterns
  • Skin changes
  • Level of weakness
  • Falls
  • Vital signs
  • Non-Physical Changes
  • Demeanor
  • Appetite
  • Sleeping
  • Speech
  • Confusion or agitation
  • Resident complaints of pain

It's important that your loved one feels safe in a nursing home.

Most nursing home employees give top care and are excellent caregivers with quality experience. A well-trained staff easily manages the physically demanding and emotionally draining job.

How to Keep Your Loved One Safe in a Nursing Home

Nursing Home Safety
Nursing Home Safety

Unfortunately, our elderly are defenseless victims while in the care of others. That's why it's important that family members stay involved and on top of their daily care. Keep your loved one protected and safe.

Visit Frequently and Unpredictably

Visit often and talk with the staff. Visit at different times. If your loved one lives in a nursing home, she has the right to see her family whenever they want to visit. Visit your loved one during meal times and see what she's served. Does it look nutritious and appealing?

Ask your loved one what time she's awakened, showered and dressed? Find out what activities she participated in or was she left alone, on her own? What time is breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Meet as many staff members as possible. Observe they're work. Sit in your loved one's room and push the call light. See how long it takes for the staff to respond.

Assess Response Time

How responsive are they to your loved one? If she needs help walking, do they respond to the alarm or sensor when she initiates a call-out? Sensors, positioned under chair seats or in a bed, set off an alarm if the weight lightens. The nursing home staff must respond to an alarm because it signals a call for help or assistance.

You should see how long it takes the staff to respond to your loved one's alarm.

Bed Sores, Pressure Sores, and other Wounds

If your loved one developed a wound like a pressure sore at the nursing home, it's important that she's monitored. If a resident is unable to move or re-position on her own, the staff should turn her every two hours. If she isn't, pressure sores can develop.

Diabetics are particularly prone to suffering pressure sores at their extremities. Nutrition plays an important role in preventing pressure sores too. The worse the wound gets, the less it will heal.

Take a Close Look to Inspect Your Loved One

Don't let modesty deter finding out if she has a wound or pressure sore. Often, you'll spot a sore on the buttocks or in the sacral area. Be aware of changes in her health condition. You're family and you're entitled to know her condition.

Communicate Openly

Stay connected and communicate openly with the staff. Ask if your loved one has any problems or has changes in her health condition. Often a resident's health deteriorates at a nursing home. Remember, a loved one's health does not need to spiral in a nursing home and deteriorating conditions are not typical, Sometime it's caused by neglect and/or your loved one's nutritional needs are not met.

Quality care leads to full recovery and a return home.

Negligent nursing home care leads to severe injury or death.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.