According to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, 33% of Medicare recipients who enter a skilled nursing facility experience adverse care that results in prolonged stays or transfers to other hospitals, permanent harm, life-sustaining intervention or death within the first 30 days.
One industry insider believes she knows the reason why.
“There are over 15,000 nursing homes in the US. Of them, approximately 11,000 of them are for profit,” says author, speaker and elder care advocate Phyllis Ayman. “Profit is the driving incentive for many nursing home corporations – and the government has yet to set standards for staffing ratios and training requirements.”
Ayman, a staunch advocate for nursing home reform, is author of the best-selling book, Overdue: Quality Care for Our Elder Citizens, bringing an insider’s view into the nursing home industry she has worked in for over 25 years.
Ayman offers the following recommendations to help families make good decisions about choosing a skilled-care or nursing facility.
1. “When can I tour your facility?” Ayman says that taking a tour is important because it provides a first-hand glimpse into the facility and the priorities of its administration and ownership. “Too many times there is something known as the ‘chandelier’ effect whereby it’s all about appearances,” Ayman warns. “You may find high-end, well-designed lobbies and entrances, glossy marketing brochures, attractive websites; but upon arrival, the reality doesn’t match the marketing pieces.”
2. “How often is a Registered Nurse on duty?” According to Ayman, “Federal law requires an RN to be on duty at least eight hours a day, seven days a week. If a facility is not in compliance with this law then it places you or your loved one at risk.”
3. “What is your staff-to-patient ratio?” While the law only requires that a facility be “sufficiently” staffed, Ayman believes that this leaves too much room for interpretation. “If a unit has forty beds, then four nurse aides per unit is a bare minimum,” Ayman suggests. “Anything less places residents at risk.” She also recommends asking about any differences in the level of staffing between short-term and long-term care areas of the facility. “If you hear residents ringing bells for long periods of time that are going unanswered, this is a quick observation that will tell you about the care your loved one can expect.”
4. “May I see your weekly and monthly activities calendar?” Ayman advises asking staff to explain the different activities and to look for activities that encourage residents to engage with staff and fellow residents. “Unfortunately, we have all become numb to seeing people sitting in wheelchairs with vacant looks in their eyes, doing nothing, appearing bored, with no stimulation,” Ayman says. “This is a recipe for both mental, physical and emotional decline.”
These are just a few of the practical tips revealed in Ayman’s newest best-selling book, written to help families know their rights and to provide real “nuts and bolts” insider information on how the system really works.
“Phyllis Ayman’s engaging new book speaks wisely to all who would listen about the crisis surrounding the current health care system for the elderly in this country – a crisis looming ever larger on the horizon,” says Dr. David L. Maxwell, Professor Emeritus of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Emerson College. “Her extensive experience in caring for the elderly and vision for compassionate new approaches to enhance the quality of their lives is a subject that should be of interest not only to the elderly and their families but to all of us who, if not already impacted, most likely will be in the years to come.”
“Too often we have come to accept boredom, loneliness, lackluster faces and grim institutional environments as the hallmarks of nursing home existence,” Ayman says. “This has to change. It can only change if we, as consumers, refuse to accept the status quo and demand changes.”
Phyllis Ayman is a veteran speech/language pathologist who has worked in over 40 skilled nursing facilities for over 25 years. She is a best-selling author of two books: Nursing Homes to Rehabilitation Centers: What Every Person Needs to Know and Overdue: Quality Care for Our Elder Citizens. Ayman is a passionate voice for eldercare advocacy and consults with individuals and families to assist them in the decision-making process of evaluating and selecting quality short-term and long-term skilled care facilities.
For more information visit: http://www.voiceforeldercare.com.
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