14 Common Nursing Home Problems & How to Fix Them

Senior patient concerned with common nursing home problems

One of the most difficult choices adult children have to make is how to take care of your aging parents when they’re no longer able to care for themselves. As you juggle your responsibilities and their needs, you may find you can’t provide all the care your parents need in the long term.

You and your family may need to consider whether your loved one should be in a nursing home or whether they are better suited to in-home care. Ultimately, you want your loved ones to be in a setting where they will thrive and enjoy a good quality of life.

Nursing homes are often the first choice because these facilities offer 24/7 medical care from professional nurses – but it’s important to consider some common nursing home issues before making a decision. Read on for details.

14 Common Nursing Home Problems

1. Increased Costs

Nursing homes generally cost more than in-home care or assisted living facilities. While some costs will be covered by private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, you may find monthly fees are outside what’s affordable.

If your parents own their own home and don’t need more intensive medical care, having a caregiver stop by to provide daily assistance and other services might be a better option.

2. Smaller Living Arrangements

Nursing homes try to provide different areas in the facilities so the residents can move about. Still, your aging parents will likely be transitioning from their home to smaller living arrangements than they’re used to.

Such sudden changes can lead to a more difficult transition for your aging parents who now have to become familiar with their new environment.

3. Living Among Other Residents

One of the perks that nursing homes promote is that your aging parents will be among other residents in their age group, so they can interact and make friends. Yet this perk isn’t always well accepted.

If your loved one doesn’t get along with other residents or prefers to spend time alone, you may be able to request room changes. But not all nursing homes can accommodate everyone’s wishes.

4. Fewer Chances to Go Out

Nursing homes generally provide social activities that your parent can participate in, both inside and outside the care facilities. But in most nursing home settings, residents have less freedom to venture out to do activities of their own choosing.

Instead of being able to go to a museum or catch a movie on their own schedule, they will generally have to follow the social activities set by the nursing home.

5. Boredom and Isolation

While nursing homes strive to provide age-appropriate activities, they may not be ones that your parents had done before or liked. Your loved ones may isolate themselves in their rooms if they can’t do the activities they enjoyed before moving to the nursing home.

Your loved one may also feel depressed or overwhelmed because of all the changes to their living environment. Simply put, they may want to go home.

6. Disregarding Preferences

They say we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, but what if the small stuff is what really matters to your loved one? They may have a preferred chair, cup, or newspaper.

More importantly, they may have a preferred time of day to wake up and go to bed. Many of these wishes are impossible to fulfill in a nursing home setting.

7. Less Say in the Care Plan

Nursing homes often have a set procedure for running their program, the health care systems, and caring for their residents.

While you might express your opinions or desires for your loved one, the care plan will ultimately be carried out based on what the nursing home staff members deem appropriate.

8. Restricted Visiting Hours

It can be hard for friends and family to find the time to visit loved ones in nursing homes, especially if the available visiting hours are restricted. Keeping your loved ones at home means they can receive visitors anytime they like.

9. Poor Food Quality

Providing nutritious food to people who all have different preferences is a challenge. Nursing homes may strive to do their best, but a limited budget may mean the food is sometimes bland or unappealing. If your loved one is at home, they’ll have more meal options.

10. Disruptions in Sleep

Anyone who has ever given birth knows that just when you and your baby are getting to sleep, a medical assistant may show up to check your vitals and run more tests. The same goes for a nursing home.

Your loved one may prefer hours – or even days – without care but often they won’t have a choice due to protocols of the establishment.

11. Improper Use of Restraints, Medications, or Feeding Tubes

In more serious cases, nursing home residents may face extra challenges. Your loved one may be restrained, given medications to alter their behavior, or fed by a tube against their will. At home, those decisions will lie with you and your loved one.

12. Staffing Issues and Slow Response Times

Staffing levels are part of a wider economical and social picture and sometimes a nursing home may not be able to attract the personnel it needs. This may lead to slower response times and a drop in the quality of care.

Insufficient care could mean your loved one suffers from bedsores or an infection due to a missed check-up, whereas in-home care will be on schedule.

13. Complications with Medicaid

Most nursing homes accept Medicaid but there can be issues getting approval for certain treatments and services. For example, a service may be discontinued and the coverage revoked if your loved one wasn’t seen to make enough improvement.

14. Eviction Issues

There’s always be a risk of eviction when your loved one isn’t living at home. Reasons for eviction may include being “difficult,” complaining too much, refusing medical treatment, or be related to non-payment or the end of Medicare.

How to Fix Common Nursing Home Issues

1. Form a Good Relationship with Staff

Take the time to build trust and a friendship between your loved one, the staff, residents, and family members at the nursing home. Let the aides know you value their hard work and, in turn, they may value your input about the things that matter most to your loved one.

2. Be an Active Visitor and Get Involved

Volunteer to help out with special events and spend time in the community visiting rooms so your loved one sees you interacting with the aides and other residents. This may mean they’re more likely to take part in group activities.

3. Go to Meetings and Raise Concerns

Attend administrative meetings at the nursing home, such as quarterly or annual meetings. Find out how things run and provide your input. Don’t be afraid to mention issues but balance the problems with positive feedback where possible.

4. Keep Notes on Any Lapses

Make sure you keep detailed records of anything that’s bothering you at the nursing home. Maybe you don’t feel a lapse is worth mentioning the first time, but then after a second or third time, you will want to bring it up. Make note of any weight loss or signs of neglect.

5. Get All the Details Before You Complain

Before you lodge a complaint, talk to your loved one’s immediate caregivers and get as much detail as you can. Then go up the ladder – all the way to your ombudsman – until you get a positive response and see change.

Are You Considering In-Home Care?

In-home care is a more cost-effective alternative to a nursing home. Even better, it doesn’t come with many of the issues that nursing homes face. You can help your parents make the best decision for their future by considering their health, happiness, and individual preferences.

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Sources:

AARP: 5 Rules for Handling Common Problems and Complaints
Justice in Aging: 25 Common Nursing Home Problems and How to Resolve Them