In order for positive change to be implemented at nursing homes, facilities must identify existing problems and create a plan to rectify them. In an ideal world, deficiencies would be nipped in the bud—before the lapses translate into real problems for patients.
While I’m sure some issues are indeed identified and remedied preemptively, my experience is that most nursing homes are hesitant to implement any meaningful change as it generally means that the facility must invest time and money into the modifications—thereby having an immediate reduction in the ever important profits.
Nursing home tragedies involving patient injury or death are indeed disturbing events for every party involved—the events can serve as an impetuous for meaningful change. Particularly in the wake of a publicized event or lawsuit, the corrective measures can come rapidly and with real meaning to direct patient care.
I began thinking about the prospect of meaningful change in nursing home care when I began to consider the situation involving patient-on-patient violence at a Chicagoland nursing home when a patient attacked another dementia patient resulting in his death.
A recently released investigative report from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) revealed that the perpetrator of the violence had a history of documented violence and aggressive behavior— yet the facility had no plan on how to intervene with this patient— or how to protect other patients from his acts. In this light, the IDPH has already order the facility to create and implement a plan to address patient violence at the facility.
If the pressure for change was not enough based upon the extensive media coverage of the event and the IDPH findings, the patient safety deficiencies at this facility will also come under review in the course of a wrongful death lawsuit the victim’s family has initiated against the facility. With the likely prospect of paying a substantial settlement or judgment, my guess is that management will scurry to get their house in order to avoid similar losses.
While there’s no consolation for the family of this victim of nursing home violence, my guess is that patients at this facility are far safer today than they were just months ago. Of course, this needless tragedy should have been avoided completely, but at least this incident can serve as a springboard to improve patient safety both at this facility and at others nursing homes across Illinois.
Call it pressure, call it guilt, call it force, I still call it meaningful change.
Oak Park nursing home had no policy to deal with aggressive residents OakPark.com March 9, 2012 by Devin Rose