8 Things You Can Ask During a Routine Nursing Home Visit
Everyone hopes that your family has made the right choice in transitioning a loved one to the best Illinois nursing home that will meet their specific care needs and keep them safe. But validating that best home quality doesn’t just happen before you decide to place them there. Ongoing evaluations of a facility’s ability to give the constant care and supervision will be necessary, so your loved one will not be found neglected, abused, or forgotten.
Before making any nursing home visits to see a loved one, we often advise family members to consider taking time to research the latest inspection reports and prepare questions for nursing home staff to answer that could help reveal any mistreatment.
- “I would like to see the administrator and nursing director to check-in and say hello. Are they available?”
At this time, you can also ask to review the current inspection reports and hear about any updates or facility challenges. If the administrator or nursing director is not there that may send a red flag waving and you should request for the person in charge to return a phone call to you immediately upon their return. It’s alarming but not surprising to find out that most nursing homes have fewer staff than they report or tell families, including permanent employees in leadership positions.
- “Any changes in the number of residents living here since my last visit?”
This can prompt additional questions about what type of duties staff have, any improvements they have made over the last year, and how the facility has dealt with changes in staff to patient ratios, including RNs. In 2018, Kaiser Health News and The Chicago Tribune partnered to research and publish accounts of reduced and unsafe nursing home staffing levels in Illinois and related complications such as sepsis, bedsores, falls, and medication mismanagement. The investigative briefing also uncovered Illinois nursing home rankings to be among some of the lowest in the country.
- “What is that smell?”
When you arrive at the home, take note of any strong odors (good or bad) and ask about them. A foul smell may uncover hygiene issues, bedsores, and problems with catheters and infections while an overwhelming scented odor may be covering up a problem.
- “Can a staff member take us on a tour of the facility?”
Ask to see all community rooms, kitchen areas, bathrooms, and the types of rooms available for new residents. View how the residents interact with the staff members and note how quickly they respond to the patient’s needs. If you ever suspect poor treatment of your loved one or another resident, don’t let it continue. Contact an Illinois Ombudsmen and a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to share your story.
- “Do you have any concerns about my loved one’s health, behavior, or well-being today?”
The often frustrated, overworked, and underpaid nursing home employees are the ones most often providing the closest care of nursing home residents. But even the most burdened nursing home staffer who knows family members are watching is less likely to abuse or neglect residents.
- “Is your nursing home council investigating any ongoing concerns?”
At this time, request a copy of the meeting notes of resident council or family council gatherings. These councils are usually organized and managed by the residents or other residents’ families to address concerns and improve the quality of care and life for all residents.
- “Can I review today’s lunch menu?”
Many nursing homes place residents on strict diets as prescribed by their physicians to prevent food allergies, diabetes reactions, and choking. Well-balanced, palatable meals and fluids must be prepared, coordinated, and tracked by staff responsible for caring for the resident to ensure nutritional health is being met. When it is not, nursing home abuse and neglect may be considered as the cause for cases involving malnutrition or dehydration.
- Have you had to give my loved one antipsychotic medications? If so, when and why?
In 2018, the Long-Term Care Community Coalition found that nearly a quarter of all nursing home residents are taking antipsychotic medications, even though the conditions the drugs are intended to treat are present in only 2% of these residents. Antipsychotic drugs are sometimes given to patients to calm behaviors or to make patients easier to handle. They have been known to be used without the patient’s physician or family’s knowledge or consent, a dangerous tactic given that the use of these drugs has been known to cause sudden death.
Many nursing homes have complaints filed against them, but not all will result in a publicized lawsuit. Before your visit, take the time to review the Illinois Department of Public Health’s quarterly reports of nursing home facilities that have violated state laws in 2019. Look for notes related to the overall cleanliness of the facility, safety concerns such as slippery floors, poor lighting, locks on doors and windows, and broken railings, and claims by residents who are being mistreated by either staff or other residents. Never be afraid to ask questions and repeat them if you don’t feel you received a good enough answer.
Nursing Home Attorneys Who Want to Help
Levin & Perconti is one of the nation’s most recognized and respected leaders in the areas of elder abuse and nursing home negligence litigation and settled cases throughout the city of Chicago, surrounding suburbs, and the entire state of Illinois.
If you suspect neglect or abuse of a loved one in a nursing home, please contact us now for a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys. Call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago at (312) 332-2872, or complete our online case evaluation form.