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Safety of Long-Term Care Facilities

As our population continues to age, we can expect an increased demand for long term care for elderly family members. While the long-term care industry presses on to increase its market as well as its profits, it is important for us to keep in mind what should be the industry’s main priority, but often is not: Safety.

Long-term care facilities must comply with governmental regulations, but these regulations do not address all safety concerns. Thus, it is incumbent on family members to be alert to the safety and well-being concerns of their elderly loved ones. Of course, it is important to consider safety issues as far in advance as possible. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, safety of nursing home residents can be increased by keeping in mind some of the following:

  1. Security- All can agree that a facility must be secure from unwanted trespassers. But a facility must also safeguard and prevent residents from inadvertently wandering from the premises site. Sometimes newly prescribed medications can have psychological effects and cause loss of mental abilities. While a facility might enact safeguards like monitoring bracelets for patients of Alzheimer’s disease, what actions are taken to ensure that all residents are safely within the facility at all expected times? Injuries and accidents can occur if a resident walks or wanders off the premises. It is important to determine the measures and safeguards a facility provides to ensure that loved ones are secure.
  2. Substandard medical care- Residents in long-term care facilities are often provided medical care, treatment and oversight through its nurse employees and sometimes, staff physicians. Because most residents of long-term care facilities are elderly, most require some type of medical care including administration of medications, protection from allergens, ensuring therapy, diagnostic testing and treatment are provided as ordered by a physician. Before a loved one is admitted to a long-term care facility, it is important to know what policies and procedures the facility has in place to ensure each resident is given medications as required and also, to ensure appropriate, physician-ordered treatment is obtained. One safety measure used by some facilities is to employ a type of “auditor” or “fail-safe” person to review residents’ medical charts each day to be certain ordered medications are administered.
  3. Safety of the Facility Premises- In Pennsylvania, residents of nursing homes are considered “business invitees”. This is a legal term which means that the nursing home or assisted living facility owes the resident the highest duty of care. In turn, this requires the facility to regularly inspect the premises, discover dangerous conditions, and then make the premises safe for your loved one as well as all residents. If the facility knows or should have known about an unsafe condition on the premises, or if he or she could have discovered the unsafe condition through reasonable inspection, it must take measures to correct the danger, or it may be liable for the harm that is caused by failing to do so. It is important to ask what policies and procedures a facility has in place to inspect for dangers so that injuries can be avoided.

Asking these few, simple questions of prospective long-term care facilities may afford family members piece of mind and safeguard against injuries to our elderly loved ones.