Excellence in Senior Health Care-What Matters
Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter
and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column
Published on 6/15/15, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive
It is inevitable that the majority of us will reach our golden years and have to make choices determining our lifestyle after retirement and beyond. One of the hardest choices we will have to make is choosing our senior health care provider(s). It is even more difficult when we are shopping for assisted living or nursing home facilities for a loved one who may no longer be able to make decisions on their own. It seems like a daunting task, so where does one begin?
When investigating a senior health care facility, one of the top factors you may want to explore is a facility’s staffing turn-over rate. High staff turn-over is a key indicator that things may not be all that well in paradise. The unfortunate statistic is that health care industry staff turn-over is as high as seventy-five percent in most facilities. You will want to ask management how long they have been at the helm, how long does the average staffer stay at their facility; and are there programs available by the facility for staff to upgrade their education or professional career experience. During our own search, we found only a few facilities that had less than twenty-five percent or lower in staff turn-over. This is important to consistent care for the patients and residents who rely on the services others provide. High employee turn-over will usually reflect in a higher cost for the consumer.
Another indicator that’ll let you know if you have chosen the right facility, is the facility’s record of state inspections. These records will tell the story whether a facility honors standards that are in place to protect patients and residents. Most states inspections result in an average of ten infractions or violations. Facilities that have a trend of posting higher amounts of infractions on a regular basis are facilities you may want to think twice about entering. There are only a few facilities who have demonstrated low amount of infractions (under five per inspection). These are facilities that respect and value their patients.
One of the highest risks to be aware of in any health care facility is infection control. One of the leading causes of death in hospitals and nursing homes is from infections that are spread from staffers and visitors from the outside. Some medical centers and senior health care facilities have strict policies for their staff and for visiting family members, relating to infection and illness control. Some facilities will not allow employees to return to work until after a 48 hour period. If symptoms continue, then the employee must seek medical attention and be cleared by a doctor before returning to work. Ask to see a facility’s infection control rules for more details. It will be helpful for you to understand these rules, thus not becoming part of the problem, and refrain from entering the facility if you are sick.
A quality assisted living or nursing home will also understand that mobility is life, and with age, comes declining physical abilities. A facility dedicated to total patient care will have a well-crafted regiment to service residents in need of extra attention. Most patient facilities are now retrofitted with the required equipment to serve persons of disabilities in every room. Ask for a free tour and an opportunity to inspect the buildings and grounds. If services and facilities are lacking for handicap access, wheelchair access, hand and arm rails, you may want to continue your search. Also ask about their nursing rehab programs; how many times a day someone checks in on a patient, or what the protocol is for handling a patient who has become confined to a bed.
Senior health care facilities that do not utilize patient sedation via drugs to control a patient’s behavior will most likely have a better system in place for quality care. A facility that institutes tender and gentle personal interventions to calm patients will have more active residents, who may be more social than their
counterparts who receive chemical intervention. Medications are a part of elder care, but they should not be the first line of defense in helping a person control their emotions or behavior.
Now that you are retired and may need medical assistance as part of your lifestyle, it does not mean you have to stop doing everything you enjoy. Most facilities will also have an Activities Director, or some position equivalent, who is responsible for keeping residents entertained. Check to see what the schedule of events may be, both on and off-campus. If they do not provide off-campus activities, do they bring people in from the community for social engagements? Do they have opportunities for seniors who may be in much better health and have not lost their ability to be mobile to volunteer for projects on campus? Find out what activities a facility may offer if this is important to you.
Does the facility foster a culture of wellness? Or is it just a place that houses old people until it is time for them to expire? Senior health care facilities that promote wellness will have a strict code of ethics and a creed dedicated to patient care. The kitchen is important. Do they plan for the best nutritional combinations within their meal planning? Is there fitness and exercise equipment? Are the practices and culture devoted to one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health by promoting best industry practices? These are additional factors to consider.
Cost and operational efficiency also plays a role in proving excellence in senior health care. A facility that pays attention to strict enforcement protocols, institutes preventive maintenance, and promotes an environment of health will have much lower price tag than corporate facilities that have tendency to waste valuable resources not dedicated to patient care. All costs are eventually passed along to the consumer. There is a balance between price and quality, as our report found, you can still offer quality services, for a lower price tag, if the management of the facility operates the senior health care center like a well-oiled machine. This is extremely important for baby boomers who are watching their dollars during life after retirement.