Is the Nursing Home Industry Broken?

Last year, the first wave of the 80 million United States baby boom generation started to retire. It doesn't take a futurist to recognize the population of nursing homes will soon begin to rise at a much more rapid rate over the next 10 to 25 years. To get an understanding of where we are, there are approximately 1.5 million people residing in 17,000 nursing homes. With 80 million baby boomers living longer, these numbers could be astronomical by 2030.

Looking at nursing home complaints, we often find that these homes are understaffed, overworked, and poorly trained. What's worse, the Texas Legislature has decided it is better to protect the nursing home owners and managers from facing large damage awards (which may in turn create a change in conduct), while doing nothing to enhance the safety and security of our nursing home residents.

In looking at a potential nursing home negligence case, we typically start by reviewing three areas. First, a nursing home resident is initially admitted, and an assessment is performed on the patient to determine what the potential health risks are and what future care is needed. This assessment typically must be done within a couple of days of admission, and is a fairly lengthy standardized assessment. Review of this document is essential to determine if the assessment was properly done and, if so, whether or not the plan of care was properly carried out.

The second area we look at is the actual plan of care itself. It is the nursing home's responsibility to plan for the needs of the patient based upon the assessment (and continued reassessment of the patient). Each plan of care should specifically address the needs of each patient and should not be a one plan fits all approach. The care plan will become the guide for patient care that the nursing home staff must follow.

The final step in the initial evaluation of a nursing home malpractice case is to determine whether or not the resident's care plan was properly executed, and whether the resident received adequate care. The place to start this inquiry is with the nursing home documentation. Often, because of staffing problems, the best intentions on the first two steps do not result in adequate execution. Further, reassessment or re-evaluation are continued to be a priority when dealing with nursing home residents.

As our nursing home population grows, it would better for society if there were no nursing home negligence cases. Our elderly population deserves to live and be cared for with their safety, comfort and dignity as our priorities. We hope the legislature will re-assess who really needs the protection& nbsp;- the nursing home industry or the nursing home residents, and we hope the industry will step up its efforts to enhance the welfare of our treasured citizens.

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