A senior moment: Nursing home problems, solutions

By Danna Downing

You might want to add “25 Common Nursing Home Problems & How to Resolve Them” to your older adult survival library. This guide is written by Eric Carlson and produced by Justice in Aging. All the information is supported by manuals from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other governmental resources. CMS is the department of the federal government that oversees programs including Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the state and federal insurance marketplaces. Its role is to analyze data, produce research reports, and to eliminate fraud and abuse within the healthcare system as defined by Title 42 of the Federal Code of Regulations and the Nursing Home Reform Law (NHRL), established in 1987 and amended regularly as needed.

Whether you are a nursing home resident, a family member, supportive friend, or a potential user of nursing home services, this guide gives you the tools you need to identify and resolve the issues most frequently encountered by users of long-term care in residential settings. You may access and download the guide at https://www.justiceinaging.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/25-Common-Nursing-Home-Problems-and-How-to-Resolve-Them_Final.pdf. You may also simply Google 25 Common Nursing Home Problems & How to Resolve Them. Be sure to choose the 2023 revised copy.

It is important to note that this 51-page booklet cannot substitute for the individual assistance of an attorney or some other relevant trained professional in long-term care management. You should know that, since 1972, you have had access to the Michigan Long-term Care Ombudsman Program, charged to improve the quality of care and quality of life by those who live in licensed long-term care facilities. This includes nursing homes for the aged and adult foster care homes. The Kalamazoo Area Agency on Aging employs two local ombudspersons, Kelly Jonker and Trish Wood, who serve Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties. They are trained and certified advocates who are dedicated in assisting older adults and their caregivers with long-term care needs or concerns and questions. You may reach Kelly directly by telephone at 269-373-5161 or by email at ksjonk@kalcounty.com. You may reach Trish at 269-373-5112 or pawood@kalcounty.com. The Kalamazoo Area Agency on Aging is located at 311 E Alcott in Kalamazoo.

The most recent edition of “25 Common Nursing Home Problems & How to Resolve Them” discusses emerging issues and perennial nursing home issues in greater detail and includes the most recent changes in federal regulations and guidance. It also emphasizes strategies to prevent evictions as described in Problems 7 through 14. The guide has six sections: Problems With Poor Care, Problems with Evictions, Medicaid Certification Problems, Denial of Patient Rights, and Admission & Billing Problems. A total of 25 situations are covered. Each situation begins with WHAT YOU HEAR in the first column and THE FACTS in the second column and includes helpful charts. The text is understandable, practical, and respectful. The introduction materials set the stage well for a good understanding of how Medicare, Medicaid, and Medicare Advantage programs interface with nursing homes.

How can it be that so many nursing homes routinely violate nursing home laws, you may wonder. The author suggests that the lack of consumer awareness of nursing home law’s protections, combined with patient and family shyness and fear of retaliation, can contribute significantly to some nursing homes developing and allowing unlawful procedures. While the nursing home caregivers provide most of the care to patients, it is the nursing home policy and procedures that are the focus of this publication. The patient, family, and friends all play a huge role in maintaining quality of care when they are aware of the laws and make it a gentle habit to speak up, ask questions, and strive to address the issues that affect their loved ones.

The author’s closing remarks are also inspiring: “You may feel awkward or embarrassed at first, but don’t let that stop you.”

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