Keeping Eye Out for the Signs: 5 Potential Hazards in a Nursing Home
Use this guide to help identify any potential hazards when choosing an aged care home.
Finding the right nursing home is a daunting task.
Currently, there is no official, independently verified information assessing the quality of care at any given facility. It’s up to the consumer to research reputations and evaluate suitability.
As no two nursing home residents are alike, identifying your loved one’s unique needs and vulnerabilities is the first crucial step. Once established, it’s time to tour the facility and ask a series of targeted questions to identify potential pitfalls.
In this post, we’re covering five common hazards to look out for when choosing an aged care home.
Short-staffed nursing homes struggle to provide residents with adequate care. In many situations, understaffing results in neglect. Unfortunately, there are no federally mandated staff ratio requirements in Australian aged care facilities, nor any rules governing the minimum qualifications for non-medical personnel.
Enquiring about staff ratios is crucial. However, it’s equally important to ask the right questions. Otherwise, you might receive a bloated figure, including kitchen or administrative staff.
Ask the facility about its nurse-to-resident ratio and care-staff ratio (the latter includes non-medically trained personnel). Compare the responses between your preferred facilities to see who comes out on top.
While there’s no clear-cut definition of what constitutes a good ratio, the best facilities have at least one care staff per five residents.
Past sanctions offer insight into the quality of care and a warning sign against potential hazards. However, an aged care facility won’t advertise its shortcomings, so you’ll need to ask about past sanctions upfront.
Ask whether a regulatory body—such as the Health Care Complaints Commission or WorkCover—has made any adverse findings in the past. If so, enquire about the details and determine whether sanctions were involved.
The facility representative is legally obliged to answer truthfully, although they may attempt to downplay the incident. Search the internet for news articles to obtain more information.
It’s also worth enquiring about their most common complaints, as well as data relating to falls, restrictive practices (physical and environmental restraints), and hospitalisations.
COVID-19 poses a significant threat to people residing in aged care facilities. About 11 Australians die from the virus in nursing homes daily. Aged care residents account for almost 30% of our country’s total death toll.
Ask the aged care facility what steps it’s taking to minimise the risk. Positive responses may include:
· Mandated vaccination, including boosters, for all residents and staff
· Wide availability of suitable personal protective equipment such as N95 masks
· Mandated masks for all visitors and staff
· Anti-viral treatments for residents who catch COVID
· Wide availability of rapid antigen tests and regular testing of symptomatic residents
· An in-depth outbreak response plan including isolation protocols, GP visits, and hospital admissions
Although rare, it’s not unheard of for aged care residents to leave the facility and wander off on their own. The issue becomes especially problematic for people living with dementia, who can put themselves at serious risk.
Ask whether the community is gated and if high-risk residents can leave the complex alone. A simple keypad on the main entry points could effectively control who enters and exits the facility.
Safety issues can arise at any time. Ask the facility whether residents will have 24/7 access to staff.
Residents with dementia require in-depth, round-the-clock care. Unfortunately, not all aged care facilities are up to the task.
Enquire about what strategies the facility has in place to care for and protect consumers living with dementia.
Next, ask about their use of antipsychotic medications and mechanical restraints.
A facility should be able to provide statistics on the rate of restraints used against all residents. Ideally, this should be under 5%. However, some unscrupulous operators have been found to sedate or restrain 50% of the residents under their care—it’s an alarming figure.
By identifying common hazards and drafting a shortlist of relevant questions, you can determine a suitable aged care facility for your loved one. Finding an appropriate nursing home will enhance your loved one’s quality of life and provide you with some much-needed peace of mind.
Keep these questions on hand when touring the facility, and ask for an email follow-up if staff can’t provide an answer straight away.If you need assistance finding a suitable option, contact the team at CareAbout today. We work with a vast network of reputable, pre-vetted facilities and can provide personalised independent advice on which homes best suit your needs.