5 things to ask when looking for an assisted living facility

By Amy Osmond Cook | Orange County RegisterPUBLISHED: March 15, 2018 at 11:04 am | UPDATED: March 15, 2018 at 11:08 am Believe it or not, that day will come when you or a loved one will need additional care. But with almost 16,000 nursing homes operating in the U.S., how can you find the best facility for your family? The first step is searching Medicare ratings for facilities in the desired area. Then, schedule a tour. And while you have a staff member or administrator available, here are five questions to ask about the facility. What are the specific points of your Medicare rating? This is truly the most objective way to measure clinical care. And it’s a great place to start when looking for a skilled nursing facility. For example, one of the criteria of this rating addresses staff attentiveness and nurse-to-patient ratio. A large nursing care staff means your loved one will receive a faster response to personal needs. Ask about the shower schedule Inquiring about the bathing schedule presents a clear picture of personal hygiene for residents. “The state mandates two showers per week, but many residents want to shower more often, even daily, and they should be allowed to have that option,” said Nathan Beck, administrator at Beachside Nursing Center. Also, ask to see the bathroom or shower area. What is a typical day like? Health care is certainly a top priority, but what can residents do when they aren’t seeing their doctor or engaged in rehabilitative therapy? Most five-star skilled nursing care facilities encourage socially engaging activities with residents and family, field trips, parties, hair salon services, exercise classes, and in-house entertainment or events. A typical day should offer services that cater to all aspects of a patient’s life.  What is the menu? The amenities and accommodations within a skilled nursing center should be professional, comfortable, and welcoming — especially the dining room. Most Continue Reading

Ballot question committees raised $2.4M heading into 2018

Steve Leblanc, Associated Press Updated 6:41 am, Saturday, February 3, 2018 BOSTON (AP) — The election is 10 months off, but already committees supporting and opposing questions on the November ballot have raised more than $2.4 million. By far the most money has come from labor unions including the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which backs a proposal calling for strict nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, and the Service Employees International Union and other labor unions that are backing three questions, including one that would gradually raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour. If past is prologue, those fundraising numbers will continue to soar between now and Election Day. Local Channel Now Playing: Now Playing Police responding to shooting at S.A. intersection San Antonio Express-News Man gunned down in driveway at S.A. home, police say San Antonio Express-News SAPD: 2 suspects caught breaking into truck, open fire on owner San Antonio Express-News Galveston PD releases image of 'Little Jacob' Galveston Police Department Man found covered in blood after crashing car into ditch San Antonio Express-News Pickup truck T-bones sedan on rural S.A.-area road, killing woman San Antonio Express-News Man+killed+by+police+after+stealing+bike%2C+riding+onto+Loop+410 Jacob Beltran Police: Drive-by gunman fires 30+ rounds into home, strikes man San Antonio Express-News Woman killed as firefighters battle flames for hours San Antonio Express-News SAPD: Man catches 2 suspect breaking into car on West Side, opens fire Caleb Downs The group that raised the most last year — the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care — relied heavily on union money. The group is pushing the question that would require nurse-to-patient ratios and has raised nearly all of the $1,051,300 it pulled in last year from the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The group says the question would increase patient safety by Continue Reading

Ask the Lawyer: Does the law protect residents of nursing homes in California?

By Ron Sokol | [email protected] | Daily Breeze PUBLISHED: January 30, 2018 at 3:50 pm | UPDATED: January 30, 2018 at 3:53 pm Q: Dad is now in a nursing home because he was no longer able to fend for himself. We have heard some horror stories about deficient conditions at some nursing homes. Are these places subject to careful oversight? A.M., Rancho Palos Verdes A: You may have recently read that View Heights Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles was fined $100,000 by the California Department of Public Health after an investigation found deficiencies that led to a patient’s death. Indeed, there are public and private agencies at the state and federal levels that license, regulate, inspect and/or certify nursing homes here. For example, the DPH seeks to ensure that nursing homes comply with state laws and regulations. And because MediCal beneficiaries constitute a sizable percentage of nursing home patients, DPH and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (via its Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) have a cooperative agreement to ensure nursing homes satisfy federal requirements. I do, however, strongly encourage diligence to assess a nursing home before someone is placed there, as well as to monitor that person’s condition and treatment thereafter. Q: What are the basics when it comes to licensing of nursing homes in California? J.S., El Segundo A: Title 22 Social Security California Code of Regulations contains information and criteria with regard to nurse-to-patient ratios, licensing and certification of health facilities, home health facilities, clinics and referral agencies. Further, Title 22 outlines basic requirements with regard to many aspects of a patient’s existence in a nursing home, such as planned activities, personal care and assistance, and arrangements for obtaining medical and dental care as well as food service. Complaints/information The California Department of Public Health has a basic form online should Continue Reading

Urge NYS lawmakers to set minimum staffing at nursing homes

Western New Yorkers have an excellent opportunity to make a real difference for our seniors today. As the direction of nursing homes move rapidly to less government regulation, lax enforcement, fewer penalties, and toward greater numbers of for-profit homes, quality care for our senior citizens continues to decline.New York State Legislators have had the much-needed Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act bill before them for several years. While passed in the Assembly, it has consistently remained stuck in the New York State Senate. Although the chair of the Senate Health Committee, Sen. Kemp Hannon, is the sponsor of the bill, he has always found excuses to keep it in committee.This bill, based on peer reviewed academic research and evidence-based recommendations, would create minimum nursing staffing ratios for residents of nursing homes and for hospital patients. These minimum ratios are aimed to increase patient and resident safety and quality of care. Without sufficient staffing levels, nursing homes have inappropriately resorted to using psychoactive drugs as “chemical restraints” and urinary catheterization with resulting inattention to changing residents’ bed positioning leading to bed sores, which is the first sign of decline for a person in a nursing home.With 27 cosponsors of the Senate bill, in addition to Hannon, we would only need 4 more to reach the 32 votes required to pass it. Western New York Senators Richard Funke, David Valesky, and Patrick Gallivan have not stepped up to sponsor it, as has Sen. Joseph Robach, despite our Elder Justice Committee having met with their staffs and provided ample verbal and written evidence to convince them.This is where we as western New Yorkers can make a difference. As survey conducted by the Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice resulted in 69 percent of respondents saying their nursing home was short staffed and 63 percent saying that staff does not react in a Continue Reading

Star Tribune special report: Senior home residents abused, ignored across state

Every year, hundreds of residents at senior care centers around the state are assaulted, raped or robbed in crimes that leave lasting trauma and pain for the victims and their families. Yet the vast majority of these crimes are never resolved, and the perpetrators never punished, because state regulators lack the staff and expertise to investigate them. And thousands of complaints are simply ignored. State records examined by the Star Tribune show the scale of the failure. Last year alone, the Minnesota Department of Health received 25,226 allegations of neglect, physical abuse, unexplained serious injuries, and thefts in state-licensed homes for the elderly. Ninety-seven percent were never investigated. That includes 2,025 allegations of physical or emotional abuse by staff, 4,100 reports of altercations between residents and 300 reported drug thefts. Video 02:54 Robert Krause didn't find out that his mother had been sexually assaulted until nearly a year after she died. When the Health Department did investigate, records show that it often neglected key steps in a criminal probe. In dozens of those cases, for instance, no one interviewed the victim and no one called the police. Health Department documents contain dire tales of residents being choked, punched, smothered with pillows, fondled and forcibly restrained. At a nursing home in New Hope, an 85-year-old patient with dementia was repeatedly struck in the face and stomach over a span of months while other employees watched. At a care home in Crookston, an angry staff member lifted a female patient off her feet and threw her several feet to a bed, while calling her an “old hag.” In Sartell, two nursing home employees witnessed a fellow worker sexually molesting a patient; they did nothing and the worker molested two more patients. And in Isanti County, an elderly woman with dementia was placed in solitary confinement for seven hours, in a frigid room with no lighting. “We Continue Reading

Colorado Divide: In rural Colorado, doctors are retiring and dying — and no one is taking their place.

ORDWAY — Inside Karen Tomky’s small medical office, the fourth patient of the day lifted up his snap-button shirt to reveal a liver-colored smear of a bruise. “It was a heifer,” David Ragsdale said of the cow that trampled across his back. “She wouldn’t go in the chute. She came over top of me.” Tomky, a nurse practitioner, looked at the bruise without alarm. “Oh, man,” she said, “I hate that. It’s like slow-motion when they hit you.” In a career spent caring for one of Colorado’s poorest and most rural counties, Tomky is accustomed to surprises. On any given day, she might treat colds or broken bones or addiction or chronic disease. Patients have walked into her office in the midst of heart attacks or labor. One time, a farmer came in with an amputated finger, blood spurting across the tile floor. She grew up here in Crowley County, the daughter of a cattle rancher on the southeastern plains, but she didn’t intend to stay. She was working in Salt Lake City when she received a letter from the county’s doctor urging her to come home and join the doctor’s practice. “You will be missed in Utah,” the letter said, “but you will make a difference here.” That was 30 years ago. There are no doctors in Crowley County anymore — typical of a drain of medical providers across rural America that has left people outside of metro areas with shorter life spans and higher rates of disease. Instead, over an expanse of 800 square miles, there is only Tomky and her small staff. Her days begin near dawn. Her lunch hours clutter with paperwork. Her phone sometimes buzzes in the middle of the night — because she’s the county coroner, too. And, in April, she turns 65. “Everybody around here knows my age,” she says. “So they keep asking me if I’m going to retire. “You see it all the time. Someone closes their Continue Reading

Facing a shortage of nurses to care for aging veterans, Milwaukee’s VA hospital rolls out the perks

Michelle Post smiled as she walked into the room and greeted a man sitting in a chair.After Post pumped hand sanitizer from a dispenser on the wall and pulled on a pair of green gloves, she and Nick Michels chatted over the sound of air flowing through his tracheotomy mask. She bent forward to listen to his lungs through her stethoscope and then knelt."I'm going to see if you have any swelling in your legs," Post said on a recent morning at the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Milwaukee.A black ball cap adorned with the words "Combat Medic" lay on the bed beside Michels.Post worked as a certified nursing assistant at the Milwaukee VA while she earned her nursing degree at Alverno College and was hired after graduating in 2014. She works in a medical/oncology unit and many of her patients are Vietnam veterans. "They talk a lot about what they brought back from Vietnam, like Agent Orange, and how that's affecting them now," she said.It's nurses like Post who are on the front lines of a health care system ministering to a rapidly aging population of American veterans whose average age is now 65. There aren't enough nurses like Post to meet the demand.With 50 openings for nurses at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center for a variety of positions, the facility has scheduled a nurse career fair on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 where job seekers can fill out applications, meet recruiters and drop off resumes. The Milwaukee VA is also using Facebook, radio advertising and word of mouth to find more nurses."It's because nurses are aging and they're due to retire in eight to 10 years. We're losing a lot of our most senior nurses with years of experience, which is concerning," said Angela Garza, a registered nurse and program manager for a medical/oncology unit on the hospital's fourth floor.It's not just the Milwaukee VA or the national VA system that's searching for nurses. A looming nurse shortage has been on the horizon for several years for a Continue Reading

If LICH dies, Brooklyn will suffer

I have been a registered nurse at Long Island College Hospital in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, since 1983. As an RN, I can work anywhere — and yet I have chosen, for just about 30 years, to brave morning rush hour on the Gowanus Expressway, commuting from my home on Staten Island for the same reason that other LICH nurses travel from upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to work there. Now we are fighting for the survival of the hospital we love. The owner of the 155-year-old institution, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, is intent on closing it down — less than two years after acquiring it with big plans for the future. On Friday, SUNY’s board unanimously voted to shutter LICH. This decision (which still needs final approval from the state Health Department) has left my patients, my colleagues and myself stunned. SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall has claimed that the residents of surrounding neighborhoods seek care elsewhere. His view is supported by Stephen Berger, who previously headed a panel on health care in Brooklyn. Berger wrote a letter to McCall in which he said, “LICH has become a diversion of energy, talent and precious resources for SUNY Downstate.” But the hospital’s own statistics paint a very different picture. For example, while officials have reported that LICH is “half empty” and under-utilized, in 2012, the hospital actually averaged a 90% occupancy rate for the 250 beds it was staffed, budgeted and equipped for. Just this last Thursday, we cared for 300 patients. Last year, LICH’s emergency room saw 58,710 patients. And 15,812 patients were discharged from its in-patient units last year, many of them children. Patients come from all across Brooklyn for care at LICH. They are upper class, middle class and underprivileged. They use LICH for both their emergency and everyday healthcare needs. Instead of revitalizing LICH and making it the pride of brownstone Continue Reading

Medicaid would see major cut in General Fund budget

The House will have a General Fund budget to consider. But members may have to think through their votes.In the climax of an exceptionally tense day, the House Ways and Means General Fund committee Tuesday approved a General Fund budget that chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said would strip $156 million from the state’s Medicaid program, a program that even the sponsor of the budget calls the “foundation” of health care in Alabama.The move came about two hours after the committee voted down a proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 25 cents a pack, a key element of House leadership’s proposal to balance the General Fund. The budget faces a $200 million shortfall.Clouse brought the proposal after calling Medicaid indispensable to the state. But he said citizens and legislators often didn’t see the good it did.“If this passes, then it’s time for the state to have a Medicaid debate,” Clouse said.Tensions erupted after Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, who voted against the cigarette tax, asked if Clouse would “accept the consequences” for the cut.“I came with a fair budget that level-funded Medicaid,” Clouse snapped. The two had a brief exchange before the vote took place. TensionsClouse’s move was just one of many confrontations throughout the Alabama Legislature, where divisions over the General Fund run between parties and through both chambers. Senate Republicans split over gambling and a proposal to move use tax revenues from the Education Trust Fund to balance the General Fund budget, aired their differences on the floor of the upper chamber.Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, accused Senate leadership of trying to make gambling the only viable option for fixing the General Fund."There are lots of divisions, and in my opinion, a lot of the more obvious solutions are being neglected to stampede everyone toward one solution, and that solution is Class III gambling," he said after he Continue Reading

Hospitals must audit medical flubs and nurse-patient ratios under new state law

Governor Paterson has signed a new law requiring hospitals, clinics and nursing homes to disclose medical errors and nurse-to-patient ratios on every shift.In addition to mistakes, the report card must include details on such patient-care issues as bedsores and hospital-acquired infections. "We are very pleased that the governor saw this as a necessary step in informing the public about staffing ratios so they can make informed decisions about patient care," said Tina Gerardi, CEO of the New York State Nurses Association. The legislation pitted nurses and health care advocates against hospitals, which carried out a big-money lobbying campaign against it. "This means another mandate on top of literally hundreds," said William Van Slyke, a spokesman for the Healthcare Association of New York State, which represents hospitals. "There's a famous study that shows for every hour of patient care a nurse has an hour of paperwork. This will add to that burden." The law, which takes effect in 180 days, comes after a Daily News series that found city-run hospitals have been repeatedly cited for not reporting medical mishaps, including fatal errors. Overall, Paterson signed 60 bills and vetoed 18 others. Among his actions: He okayed a bill creating an e-mail system alerting people when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood.  He signed a bill giving workers injured in the World Trade Center cleanup another year to file claims.  He approved legislation requiring indoor day camps to have as many health inspections as outdoor ones. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading