Throughout the United States, millions of elderly and disabled individuals receive care in nursing homes and skilled care facilities. By and large, these facilities provide patients with the compassionate and accurate medical care they need. Unfortunately, even the best nursing homes will face complaints from residents and family members. Nursing home insurance is one part of a facility’s risk management plan, but it is critical that healthcare facilities recognize and respond to common complaints in order to minimize liability issues.
The State of the Nursing Home Industry
The nursing home industry is continually faced with challenges. These challenges come in the form of ever-changing regulations, declining profits, and staffing shortages. Of course, these factors can lead to less-than-adequate care as staff are expected to do more complex treatments with fewer resources. Regulatory changes, particularly in financial penalties for high levels of hospital readmissions and in smaller reimbursements by Medicare, have forced many skilled care facilities to add treatment options for patients. With staffing shortages and financial shortfalls, negligence claims have risen dramatically over the past decade. In fact, liability claims cost millions of dollars in unexpected expenses, negatively impacting the healthcare industry as a whole.
Common Resident Complaints in Nursing Homes
There are many complaints among nursing home residents. Many of these are valid, while others indicate a perceived lack of quality care in the eyes of residents and family members. Common complaints include:
- Slow responses to calls. When residents seek help using in-house calling systems, the response time can vary. Staff members have extremely high workloads, and may not respond as quickly as patients demand. This can lead to significant numbers of complaints, as patients do not feel as if their needs are being addressed in a timely fashion.
- Poor food quality. Long the bane of every healthcare facility, complaints about food, both in quality and in variety, have risen in recent years. While it impossible to cater to every taste while providing healthy, nutritious meal options, nursing homes need to take a proactive approach in addressing food quality issues.
- Staffing issues. With some facilities facing serious staffing shortages and high workloads among existing staff, patients in these nursing homes often feel as if their needs are not being met. Complaints arise regarding patient lifting equipment, under-trained staff members, and a host of related issues surrounding care delivery and staff responsiveness.
- A lack of social interaction. Many elderly patients grow to feel isolated from the world around them. Dwindling family visits are often the cause for this isolated feeling, and patients come to expect that staff members replace family in social interactions. Unfortunately, staff members do not have the time and may not have the training for this role.
- Disruptions in sleep. Care never stops in nursing homes; these facilities provide around-the-clock care for residents. Interruptions in sleep, such as when staff members stop in to take vital signs or to deliver medication, are common. Residents often complain about loud neighbors and even the conversations between workers during nighttime hours.
Handling Common Complaints: Reducing Liability Exposures
Forward-thinking nursing homes and skilled care facilities understand that they are not only healthcare providers but also customer service-oriented operations. To address complaints and to improve service, many of these facilities have adopted unique approaches. Regular review of policies and procedures is typically the first step in reducing complaints. Many facilities will seek the input of patients and family members, usually through some form of survey instrument. With this information, the facility can then create initiatives to address common complaints.
As mentioned earlier, food-related complaints are very common in any healthcare facility. To address this, facilities often create long-term food rotation schedules, such as four-week rotations. These facilities may also seek higher-quality food vendors and enhance presentation of food items to head off any potential complaints.
Staff training and retraining is an important part of risk management, just as is nursing home insurance. By making sure staff members are equipped with the knowledge and skill needed to provide expert care, complaints tend to plummet.
With these practices, nursing homes can continue to provide care for the many patients who rely on their service. Being responsive to emerging complaints is a powerful risk management tool, helping to improve the quality of care and the life of so many elderly citizens.
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 317.575.4440.