Watchdog agency says improvements being made in area nursing homes
A combined 28 deficiencies for area nursing homes is nothing to smile about, says Mitzi McFatrich, but still there is definite progress being made.
McFatrich is executive director of the Kansas Advocates for Better Care and she is talking about the number of cited deficiencies at both the Bonner Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation and Golden Living Center Kaw River, Edwardsville, facilities.
The Lawrence-based KABC serves as a watchdog agency for the more than 300 nursing homes in Kansas, informing consumers of what their options are when seeking a nursing home for themselves or a loved one and what the realities are of the care that is provided at each facility. McFatrich said one way KABC does this is to every year publish a list of the nursing homes showing consistently 10 or more deficiencies in their three most recent inspections.
“I think our role is to provide consumers, which would be older adults, persons with disabilities, people with mental health issues at that nursing home level of care and their families, with info that they can use as they try to make a good choice about where their loved one can receive care,” McFatrich said.
Federal law mandates that each facility go through an inspection of care practices every 12-15 months by whichever inspection organization is designated by the state. In Kansas, McFatrich said, the duty falls to the Kansas Department on Aging. Any deficiencies it finds are cited and made public record. According to the KABC, the national average of deficiencies is nine.
KABC’s most recent list, published Jan. 1, 2010, contained 73 facilities, including both Bonner Nursing and Rehab and Golden Living Center. The Bonner facility was cited during its last inspection in June 2009 with having 16 deficiencies, one of which involved actual harm of residents. This citation was for not giving residents proper treatment to prevent new or heal existing bed sores. McFatrich said the report wasn’t all bad, however.
“They actually are declining in the number of (citations) they have received,” McFatrich said. “Three years ago, it was 22, (then) 21 (and now) 16 … So I’m happy to see the trend going downward in terms of the number of deficiencies they receive. I’d be happier if I didn’t see that actual harm in there.”
In a statement, Don Hanzel, administrator with the Bonner Springs facility, said all the cited deficiencies had been addressed and cleared upon further inspection.
“We remain focused on achieving improvements despite the many challenges we face, specifically a 10 percent rate reduction in state Medicaid funding that was recently announced,” Hanzel added.
Edwardsville received 12 deficiencies on its most recent inspection at the end of January 2009 — none involving actual harm. According to McFatrich, however, three years ago the facility’s numbered deficiencies were at an all-time high, with 40 potentially harmful deficiencies and seven causing actual harm to residents.
“I think that’s good news,” McFatrich said of the improved numbers. “It’s not good news they still have 12, but it’s really going the right direction in terms of the trend.”
McFatrich said there were several factors that may cause a nursing home to have deficiencies, which include not having enough staffing and low occupancy rates that don’t allow for proper funding. The Kansas occupancy rate average, McFatrich said, is 86 percent, and both Bonner Springs and Edwardsville were below that number.
In a statement released by Golden Living Center Kaw River, executive director Patty Cady said she was realistic about the problems in her facility, but much work was already being done to insure that conditions were improving.
“Our current rating and past survey results are not as high as we would like, but we are confident that our current quality initiatives will improve our survey performance and we’ll move up in future ratings,” said Cady. “Our Living Center has recently implemented a number of quality improvement initiatives and we are seeing positive results.”
Another major factor causing there to be so many deficiencies in nursing homes, McFatrich said, is that society as a whole tends to neglect its older citizens.
“Although we love our parents and our grandparents as individuals, as a whole we don’t necessarily do a great job of taking care of the elders of our nation,” McFatrich said. “When it comes to taking care of people and providing them the kind of respect and dignity that they are entitled to … we just don’t do a great job of that. And you can call it ageism, you can call it whatever you want. I just think that’s a reality.”
It’s not the role of KABC to tell consumers which nursing home to choose, only to give them all the available information, McFatrich said, but a good action plan for both of these facilities to take in preparation for their next inspections would be to focus more on what she called “person-centered care.”
“… where you really allow the individual to determine what their day is going to be like when they get up, when they go to bed, when they eat,” McFatrich said. “That when someone pushes their call button you respond to it immediately … that you look at the level at which somebody is functioning when they come into the nursing home and try to do everything you can to keep them functioning at their highest level.”
McFatrich said the published list isn’t the only factor consumers should gauge when deciding on a nursing home, but it was the best place to start. Other factors should include taking several tours, during both busy and quiet times, to see how residents are being treated. During each tour, consumers should consider such aspects as the smell, the noise level, the attitudes of the staff toward the patients and the attentiveness, McFatrich said.
Above all, she said, the most important consideration to look out for is simply whether the staff members at any facility are doing a good job of treating the residents the way they themselves would like to be treated someday.
For more information, contact the KABC at (785) 749-0029.
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