Monday, January 24, 2011

Surprise! State Surveyors Pay a Visit to Your Parent's Nursing Home

Suppose strangers enter your home unannounced. They rummage through your cupboards, financial statements, medical records and more. And then they tell you what's not up to snuff. If your aging parent lives in a nursing home, assisted living or adult family home, that's what happens yearly when state surveyors pay their surprise visit.

Nursing home surveys are the strictest. The licensors look for noncompliance with hundreds of federal and state laws. When they find something wrong, they deem it a "deficiency." Deficiencies can be as minor as finding crumbs in the toaster or as severe as discovering evidence of abuse and neglect.

Surveys in assisted living and adult family homes focus on state laws only, are generally shorter (often two or three days as opposed to four to five for a nursing home), and concentrate on issues relating to quality of life.

Many long-term care employees shake in their boots figuratively when surveyors arrive. Some facilities will hire extra help the day their visitors arrive, so they'll "pass the test." Such tactics remind me of college students cramming for a final exam, hoping the information will enter their brains in time.

You can help the surveyors do their job. They want to know what the facility is like on a daily basis, so they ask mentally competent residents, and family members, too. That's where your valuable input comes into play.

Before finishing the visit, surveyors discuss the results with the staff. If surveyors issue deficiencies, the staff have 10 days to submit a plan of correction in writing.

You don't have to wait until a state survey happens to voice your concerns. In between surveys, the ombudsman is your go-to person if you suspect neglect or abuse.

Do you have experience with state surveys?

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