In the United States, one in every three seniors dies with dementia, a collective term for cognitive losses including Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone develops the disease every 65 seconds, representing 5.7 million people in the U.S. This number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million by the year 2050, and long-term care facilities across the country are struggling to provide care to seniors afflicted with dementia.
Unfortunately, a number of facilities has been found to improperly treat patients with dementia, leading to legal claims. While nursing home insurance coverage is designed to protect long-term care facilities, their staffs, and their patients, industry best practices must be implemented. These practices improve care delivery and reduce the instances of negligence or malpractice claims.
Issues Treating Dementia in Nursing Homes
Most nursing homes in the United States provide compassionate care for their patients, regardless of health status or financial stability. However, several highly-publicized cases of improper care have appeared in recent years, leading to changes in how facilities approach patients with cognitive impairment.
Since 2000, evictions of “difficult” patients – including those with dementia – have skyrocketed. Complaints of evictions and patient discharges has risen by nearly 60 percent; according to a media analysis of cases, evictions were the top-reported grievances filed against long-term care facilities. Patients that are poor and suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are often targeted for eviction due to their increased need for round-the-clock care. Some facilities will initiate evictions or patient transfers to make room for less labor-intensive and more profitable patients, disregarding established federal laws designed to protect patient rights.
Improper use of medications is also on the rise when treating patients with dementia. A lengthy report by Human Rights Watch indicated that nearly 200,000 dementia patients in long-term care facilities received antipsychotic medications to sedate them, even though those patients did not meet psychiatric criteria for those medications. Unwarranted use of powerful sedatives has been done as a form of “chemical restraint”, easing the workload of caregivers but at a tremendous risk to the patients themselves. In many cases, patients’ families were not consulted, and no consent to provide the drugs was obtained.
Best Practices for Dementia Care in Long-Term Care Facilities
Faced with staggering negligence claims and concerns from patients’ families, medical professionals, and human rights organizations, the federal government stepped in to help. In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established a guideline entitled the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes, requiring rigorous reporting and monitoring of the use of certain drugs in long-term care facilities. On the state level, a number of states implemented their own care standards in an effort to protect at-risk patients.
Best practices for treating patients with dementia in long-term care facilities include investing family members in diagnosis. Making the family an active partner in care plans can reduce legal claims against facilities, helping to protect patients’ rights and the dignity they deserve. Financial considerations also play a crucial role in care – when patients can no longer handle their own finances, they must have a trusted friend or family member to make critical monetary decisions including powers of attorney, banking access, and monitoring for financial abuses.
Nursing home facilities engage in risk management practices to improve patient care. Eliminating hazards is one way of protecting patients with dementia, as is implementing security systems like remote door locks and alarms to reduce the chances of wandering. Registering patients with the Alzheimer’s Association MedicAlert Safe Return program, a 24-hour emergency response system for dementia patients, helps to get patients back to their care facilities if they wander. Routine training of caregivers and facility staff in dementia care plans is also a smart way to ensure that patients receive the best care, regardless of their cognitive abilities. Finally, facilities can use nursing home insurance coverage to help protect assets and staff from the losses associated with legal claims. Together, these risk management practices both protect patients and reduce claims of negligence or improper care, preserving the facility’s ability to deliver compassionate 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 317.575.4440.