Millions of adults receive care in nursing homes in the United States. These facilities offer comfortable residences, expert medical care, and assistance with daily tasks in a compassionate and competent manner. Unfortunately, even the best facilities experience complaints, both from residents and their family members. In addition to nursing home insurance as part of a comprehensive risk management plan, nursing facility managers must be able to manage any complaints that arise. By adopting complaint handling procedures, nursing homes can both recognize and respond to resident complaints, helping to reduce liability exposures.
Common Complaints in Nursing Homes
Before delving into the topic of developing a complaint handling procedure, it can be useful to understand some of the most common complaints nursing homes face in their daily operations. Many of the most common complaints are entirely valid and are typically brought by residents or residents’ family members in situations where the health and safety of residents may be compromised. According to a leading nursing home consumer resource, the five most common complaints are:
- Inadequate response to calls – Slow responses to calls lead residents to believe their needs are not being met promptly, and this often results in complaints.
- Inadequate staffing – Staffing shortages and high turnover rates in staff give residents the impression that the facility is not adequately prepared to provide care. Of course, this is a very common source of complaints in the industry.
- Food quality issues – Quality and variety of foods, or the lack thereof, are a perennial source of complaints in nursing homes.
- Sleep disruptions – Round-the-clock care, loud neighbors, and conversations between staff members after hours can disrupt residents’ sleep schedules. This may lead to a significant number of complaints.
- Lack of activity/social interaction – Elderly residents often feel disconnected from their environment, especially when social interaction or lack of activity creates a sense of isolation among residents.
Developing Complaint Handling Procedures
Faced with numerous common complaints by nursing home residents and their family members, it is critical that facility managers develop plans to handle them. Keeping residents satisfied with the quality of care and living arrangements available has long-term benefits for the facility, so it makes sense to embark on a complaint handling plan. The best facilities see complaints as opportunities for growth and for improvement, initiating procedures to reduce or even eliminate some of the most common complaints.
The first step in creating a complaint handling plan may seem counterintuitive, but this aspect is vital for the success of the resulting plan. To begin, facility managers and staff should encourage residents and their visiting family members to voice their concerns – in many cases, facility managers may be unaware of certain concerns that lead to frequent complaints.
The next step in the complaint handling process is to document all complaints carefully. A written record of each complaint and the factors that led up to it is a treasure trove of information, allowing managers to better understand how complaints arise. Documenting issues is also an important part of the risk management process; documentation of complaints may be of extreme value if a legal challenge is filed against the facility. Many nursing home insurance policies recommend documentation of complaints and issues regarding the health and safety of residents. It is often a good idea to designate a staff member as a complaint contact; he or she is responsible for gathering information on complaints and speaking to affected parties directly.
Once complaints are documented and the underlying causes of common complaints identified, it is time for facility stakeholders to develop resolutions. Resolutions to complaints need not be complex, but they should be a tangible indicator that the facility takes complaints seriously and wants residents to be as comfortable as possible. Altering certain meals, establishing evening “quiet times”, and addressing staffing shortfalls have a measurable effect on complaints, and many of these factors are relatively easy to implement. Resolutions should be communicated to affected residents and their family members, giving them the ability to add their own feedback.
Risk Management: Reducing Common Complaints
Nursing homes have a duty to provide expert care with compassion to the residents who depend on these important services. By creating a complaint handling procedure, facilities supplement the risk management tools at their disposal, including nursing home insurance, staff training, and hazard mitigation. Reducing or eliminating common complaints should be the goal of every long-term care facility, giving them the advantage of a satisfied clientele who are likely to stay within the facility instead of seeking care elsewhere.
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.