Nursing homes and senior centers face numerous challenges in their daily operations. These facilities have a duty to provide accurate and compassionate medical care as well as support for America’s aging population. One of the leading challenges is that of palliative care. Just like nursing home insurance serves as the backbone of facility risk management, understanding the factors and risks associated with palliative care can help to protect nursing homes from liabilities.
What is Palliative Care?
A growing segment of America’s nursing home population receives palliative care. In simple terms, this is a form of medical care designed to help people with serious illnesses be more comfortable. Sometimes associated with end-of-life care, palliative care works to reduce or prevent the discomfort and symptoms of potentially life-threatening diseases. This care is often done in conjunction with healthcare focused on curing or treating an individual’s illness. Palliative care does not only involve medication and therapies; it can also include care for emotional, spiritual, and social needs.
Palliative care is often used when treating patients with:
- Heart disease
- Lung diseases
Typically, individuals receiving palliative care remain under the oversight of their primary healthcare provider. This additional care may be provided by nursing home staff, such as nurses, therapists, and social workers. Ultimately, the goal of palliative care is to improve one’s quality of life.
Risks in Palliative Care
As with any service provided by nursing homes, there are risks associated with palliative care. As a risk management strategy supplemented by nursing home insurance, facility managers and staff must be aware of potential risks in providing this level of care for residents.
Nursing homes have a duty to provide care for their residents. One of the primary risks of palliative care is that of ethical treatment and the ability of caregivers to communicate and implement care processes in the face of worsening health conditions. For many nursing home residents, palliative care becomes an option as diseases worsen. The presence of advanced diseases may introduce factors such as dependency, lack of comprehension, vulnerability, and voluntary/involuntary participation in care programs. Failing to take into account the ethical and cultural barriers when providing this care may increase exposure to liabilities on the part of the nursing home and its staff.
Another risk is associated with the care itself. While nearly every healthcare provider and allied staff can provide forms of palliative care, some of the treatments and therapies require specialized training. It is critical that nursing home staff not overstep their bounds, offering or providing care that they are not qualified to give. Even the best intentions have been met with liability claims from residents and their family members.
Offering Palliative Care: Risk Management Practices for Nursing Homes
Nursing home insurance plays an important role in protecting care facilities from liability exposures. As the foundation of risk management, these policies are designed to provide coverage for a broad range of operational risks. Still, facility managers must consider other aspects when offering palliative care to residents.
To reduce the impact of this potential risks associated with palliative care, facility managers must both obtain informed consent of residents participating in care and ensure that caregivers have the training or certification required to provide this level of support in keeping with regulatory standards. Next, facility staff must carefully weigh the benefits and risks of palliative care methods; as new treatments or therapies are developed, do their benefits outweigh potential risks? To answer that question, facility stakeholders must consider:
- Analysis of cultural and societal factors that may present barriers to care.
- Identifying potential conflicts of interest to protect residents and staff from liabilities.
- Justify the inclusion or omission of palliative care with research on risks and benefits.
Facility managers must implement regular and ongoing training for staff members tasked with providing palliative care. This can include specialized education in treatments and therapies as well as the ethical considerations of palliative care. Vulnerable residents of nursing homes deserve the best in compassionate and ethical care. By establishing risk management practices – including nursing home insurance and other protections – nursing homes can deliver this valuable care to those who need it most.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.