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Nursing homes report shows need for better care, vigilance

Placing a loved one into a nursing home is an unbearably difficult decision for family members. That decision just got harder for Nevadans, in the wake of Tuesday’s report by the Review-Journal’s Paul Harasim and Yesenia Amaro: The state’s facilities rank among the worst in the nation overall (43rd), receiving a grade of F in a study conducted by Families for Better Care, a nationwide nursing home resident advocacy group.

Nevada got the worst grade of any state in the Pacific Region, with the worst scores in the region in five of eight measured categories: direct care staffing, direct care staffing hours, health inspections, percentage of facilities with deficiencies, and percentage of facilities with severe deficiencies. Every nursing home in the state was cited with one or more deficiencies by state health inspectors, and one in three was cited for a severe deficiency — one in which a resident suffered harm or was in imminent danger. Not exactly a move-to-the-head-of-the-class report card, particularly for a state with a large retiree population.

Such issues serve to magnify the suffering, grief and stress not only of the patients, but of their family members. The struggles and pain that families go through just to get loved ones into these homes is monumental. It’s difficult to finally admit that a relative can no longer care for himself or herself and needs help — and that the family members don’t have the skills to provide that help. When patients don’t get the good care they’ve paid for — or, worse yet, get substandard care or are outright neglected — that makes everything worse.

To be fair, there are many hard-working caretakers at nursing homes around the valley and around the state. Many good people work at these facilities, and these are not easy jobs. Surely, these businesses would close if they were found to be deliberately attempting to bring harm to residents.

But as with any other industry, there will be problems, and it appears Nevada’s problems are more magnified than in most states. As Mr. Harasim and Ms. Amaro noted, staffing is at the heart of most of the problems — there is a shortage of health care professionals in Nevada. As pointed out by Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, Nevada nursing home residents receive less than two hours, 10 minutes of care daily, but if that figure could get up to three hours, there would be a rapid turnaround in nursing home quality.

Even if that were to happen, though, the overwhelming onus still falls on family members of those in nursing homes. This report serves as a reminder that relatives can never stop being advocates for their loved ones. They are the check-and-balance on nursing homes. Nursing homes — in which the publicly traded stock prices have increased by a whopping 415 percent in the past 10 years — need to step up and do right by their residents, whose loved ones need to ensure that happens by remaining ever-vigilant.

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