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The following piece, written by Martin Solomon of Solomon & Relihan, PC, is featured in the November 2022 issue of Lovin’ Life After 50.
What Questions Should We Be Asking as We Move Our Loved One into a Nursing Home?
By Martin Solomon, Solomon & Relihan, PC
When researching available nursing homes for a family member, it’s important to evaluate your options and gather facts. That involves asking the right questions that will guide your eventual decision.
In our more than 20 years of experience focusing solely on victims’ cases of nursing home abuse and neglect and speaking with thousands of families, most of whom have been victims of neglect in Arizona nursing homes, we have seen that many families don’t know what to ask, how to research a facility, or how to make sure they have the best choices in their area to avoid putting their loved one where abuse or neglect may occur.
Families usually have little time to consider moving a loved one into a nursing home. The most common circumstance requiring nursing home rehabilitative care is after a patient is discharged from a hospital. Families may not be given notice of the hospital’s intent to discharge the patient until hours before the move and are frequently caught off guard.
A hospital admission is stressful for family; finding a nursing home on short notice would not be the first thing considered. It is important to begin the search before issues arise. Below are some questions to ask facilities to give a family a good basis for making the best decision for a loved one’s care.
Families want to make sure that the facility is safe and that staff is caring for residents. Look at staff ratios. Ask questions about diet and kitchen operations, access to the outdoors, and the facility’s day-to-day operations. As you walk the halls, ask fellow residents and visiting family members about how long their loved ones normally wait for staff to respond to their needs.
How does the facility rate?
Too often in the news are stories about nursing homes providing substandard care that result in resident harm. Our firm Solomon & Relihan has created a website to help compare nursing homes with both federal and Arizona government data at www.AZNursingHomeCompare.com. This tool provides details like nursing staff turnover rates, deficiency citations and fines, and other aspects of facility safety.
Is there a culture of advocacy?
Look for an internal culture that promotes the well-being and safety of residents. Does the facility post a copy of the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights in a public area? This lets families know that there are legal protections for nursing home residents. In our experience, it’s very difficult to get a hold of nursing home leadership to ask about the top-down culture, but it is worthwhile to pursue.
What are communications with family like?
Who is responsible for connecting with the family? Who would you talk to with any questions or issues with your loved one? Ask these questions to other residents and their families to learn about how a nursing home operates. If families conduct a very simple trial, such as leaving a voicemail for someone in leadership and getting nothing in return, that can be a red flag.
How much does it cost?
While short-term rehabilitative care stays are often covered under Medicare, care is expensive in this industry, so it’s important to ask about pricing. Having the numbers in hand helps families plan and provides a signal if a facility will be transparent. Families should know how they work with Medicare and how costs are calculated.
What safety infrastructure is in place?
Look for hand rails, ADA facilities, and lifts. A good facility must have adequate access infrastructure in place to keep seniors safe. The more a business invests in building safety, the better its reputation will be in the community.
How are staff doing?
Look at the demeanor and outlook of staff members. It’s easy to tell whether staff members are calm and composed, or stressed out. Signs of stress may indicate high turnover which indicates that something is not right in a facility.
What do they make you sign?
Every nursing home requires the resident or a representative to sign an admission agreement. Buried within those agreements may be a clause agreeing to arbitration if issues arise. By signing an admission agreement with an arbitration provision, the resident gives up the right to have a nursing home’s negligence decided by a jury. Nursing homes want to shield lawsuits from the public and force residents into arbitration to keep abuse quiet. Look for language about arbitration and strike it out, initial it, ask the nursing home to initial it, and get a copy.
With these critical questions answered, families can get closer to a decision for their loved one. If you feel that your family member is the victim of abuse or neglect, call Solomon & Relihan for a free consultation at (602) 336-6147.
Martin J. Solomon is a principal at Solomon & Relihan PC and has been licensed to practice law in Arizona since 1970. He practices exclusively in the area of personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on nursing home abuse and neglect. Martin is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, a past president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He is a member of the Nursing Home Litigation Group in the American Association for Justice (formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association), the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform and the Maricopa Elder Abuse Prevent Prevention Alliance.