The best nursing homes and long-term care facilities offer care that goes above most standards and lets residents enjoy the simple things they need in life like socialization, fresh air, exercise, hearty meals, and relaxation. The worst nursing homes often provide substandard care and force residents to live in conditions that are cramped, stifling, unclean, and sometimes unsafe. One of the ways facilities can make improvements is by listening to the complaints of residents and initiating changes based on those complaints.
That said, what are some of the most common complaints about nursing homes? Below we have listed the top three common complaints as well as how these complaints can potentially be addressed.
Slow Response Times
By far, the most common complaint in many nursing homes is that staff members are slow to respond to the needs of residents. This can take the form of staff members being slow to respond to call buttons or residents being left for too long either in their beds or in wheelchairs waiting for care to be given. One of the most common places where this occurs other than in patient rooms is in dining halls, where residents are sometimes left before and after mealtimes.
Slow response times can cause residents to soil themselves or fall if they try and get up and move without aid. They can also cause residents to suffer from health complications like bed sores if they’re left in bed for too many hours without being properly moved or getting exercise.
The most common reason for slow response times is the fact that many nursing homes are understaffed. They simply don’t have enough employees and nurses to give each resident the care they require. Sometimes facilities choose to take more residents than they should given the number of staff they have available. Other times, they decide to cut corners by not hiring extra caregivers even when residents complain about not getting adequate care.
Slow response times should be brought up to facility administration as soon as they are noticed, especially if the response times place a resident in danger. Facilities have an obligation to keep their residents safe from harm, which sometimes means hiring more staff.
Poor Quality Food
Another extremely common complaint is regarding the meals and foods offered in nursing homes. While it’s understandably a challenge for facilities to please every resident as well as ensure residents are given the nutrition they need in addition to have all their unique dietary needs met, many facilities decide to cut corners in this department. They offer meal and snack choices that are bland in flavor and offer little variety on a day-to-day level.
Families of residents can try and ease this complaint by speaking with staff members and asking what options they have regarding changing the menu or types of foods offered. Many facilities offer choices by request. It may also be possible for loved ones to bring in outside food options for their family member if the foods meet the dietary needs of the resident.
Since most nursing homes face employee shortages, nurses and caregivers do not often have the time to have prolonged interactions with residents. Unless a resident’s family members and loved ones visit often, this can leave residents feeling isolated socially.
Friendships between residents can alleviate these feelings, but many residents struggle to develop and maintain friendships within the facility when residents come and go, depending on their changing care requirements. Residents may also struggle with issues like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression which can make socialization even more challenging.
It’s a known fact that positive social interactions can improve the health and wellbeing of hospital patients and nursing home residents. Studies have shown that feeling isolated can increase a patient’s risk of developing dementia by 50% and having a stroke by 32%. These feelings of isolation have become even more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most nursing homes were under tight lockdown for months at a time with heavily restricted visitation policies and limited socialization between residents and even caregivers. Thankfully, most of these restrictions are now being lifted.
To help a loved one feel less isolated in a long-term care facility, it’s a good idea to visit as often as possible, of course, and encourage your loved one to develop friendships even though it may be difficult to do so. Phone calls and messages are a good idea when you can’t visit in person. It’s also good to encourage your loved one to take part in programs and events run by the facility.
Finally, it can be a good idea for family members of residents to express their concerns to nurses and caregivers at the facility who work with their loved one frequently. By developing positive relationships with staff members, you can create a team of allies who can keep an eye on your loved one and give them extra interaction time when they are able to.
When Complaints Turn into a Dangerous Situation
It may be common for a resident of a nursing home to have complaints about the facility they’re staying in, but as a family member of a resident, it’s crucial to pay close attention to your loved one’s complaints and try and resolve some of them. A simple complaint like slow staff response times can turn into a dangerous situation if a staff member’s negligence causes your loved one to get up out of bed without supervision and injure themselves.
Always take the time to report complaints to staff members and administration if necessary. Your complaints should be addressed. If they aren’t, this is a red flag. Keep a close eye on your loved one’s health and condition—both physically and emotionally. If you notice your loved one’s condition deteriorating or notice new injuries that staff members are not disclosing, these could be signs that something more serious is going on.
If you have reason to believe that your loved one may have been injured due to the negligence of nursing home employees or may have been abused in their facility, you and your loved one deserve peace of mind—and your loved one deserves to live in a safe environment. If your loved one is staying in a South Carolina facility, don’t hesitate to reach out to your state’s ombudsman office to find out your options. You may also contact Solomon Law Group, located in Columbia, to learn more about what legal options you may have.