Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Student Views of Recent Events

For those of you who are regular readers, you'll remember a few weeks ago I posted a couple of students' writings about recent events. Here are a couple of more.

First, on the new provision for CMS to point out abuse:

A Stop Sign for SNFs

Abuse icon

By Sabrina Chianese

Pictured here is a new symbol from CMS, to be put to use on October 23. If you see this symbol on CMS’s Nursing Home Compare, it’s a sign that the home you’re researching has “received inspection-report citations for abuse that led to the harm of a resident within the past year — or citations for abuse that could have potentially led to resident harm in each of the previous two years.” In other words, skilled nursing facilities with this symbol have committed some pretty serious abuses against their patients.

The reason for this symbol is simple – CMS wants to both promote safer, higher-quality SNFs and to make consumers more aware of which facilities have caused harm to patients. The American Health Care Association views this change positively; however, it is also argued that, to fully allow for consumer knowledge of these issues, there needs to be an option for the patients, families, etc. to provide public feedback on their care.

I think it’s a good idea to increase exposure to the issue of nursing home abuse, as we’ve seen some horrendous cases in just this past couple of years. A facility in Massachusetts was cited multiple times for abuses, including medication mismanagement, staff members verbally abusing patients, and patients harming other patients. Most recently, a resident of that facility used a walker to kill his roommate. During Hurricane Irma, twelve residents of a Florida nursing home died when the facility lost its air conditioning and failed to move residents to a safer, functioning building; some patients reached temperatures of over 107 degrees. Homicide charges are being pressed, and Florida law now requires “backup power sources [like generators] in Florida nursing homes and assisted-living facilities” as a direct result of this tragedy. Additionally, at a CLC for veterans, one patient passed away after being covered by and “feasted on” by fire ants, despite claims that the facility had tried to solve the problem the first time he was swarmed.

AARP has provided information on how to handle nursing home complaints from a consumer or resident standpoint. Having insurance for missing items, being aware of dietary restrictions, fostering positive relationships with staff, being engaged in a family member’s care, and reporting abuses are some of the methods that AARP advocates depending on the severity of the complaint.

While it’s important to know how to deal with complaints, potential abuse, signs of malnutrition, and other serious problems, it’s equally important for people searching for this specialized care to know which facilities have committed abuses beforehand. I would even argue that it’s more important – no one wants to be in a position where their loved one is harmed or even killed because they unknowingly selected a nursing home that had been cited for multiple serious offenses. Part of the reason for the new symbol is because positive ratings through the CMS’s star system can be misleading.

While it’s a small step, I think having the symbol is still a helpful idea – we need to make people aware of what abuses are being committed and which facilities are repeat offenders. I thus also agree that having the kind of service advocated for by the American Health Care Association – a Yelp-like service for nursing homes – will be helpful, too, because it lets people read about the experiences of others while they are in the process of researching a nursing home.

Second, a post from student Melissa Shafer about robotic pets:

NBC News published an article about the positive impacts robotic pets have on the elderly, specifically for individuals living with dementia. Several companies, such as Tombot and Joy for All, produce robotic pets as companions for the elderly and people with disabilities, while aiming to offer them at reasonable prices. Robotic pets are designed to replicate some of the behaviors of living pets to make them seem more lifelike, such as the ability to purr, wag their tails or move their heads. Many of these companies started producing robotic pets in response to loneliness and lack of companionship experienced by the elderly.

A 2018 study by AARP found that about one third of people aged 45 and older were lonely. In addition, the World Health Organization published an article in 2017 and determined that for individuals over 60, roughly 20% were experiencing a mental or neurological disorder, most often as a result of dementia and depression. The use of robotic pets is aimed to address these issues.

Furthermore, research by NBCI confirmed that interactions between adults and animals increase quality of life by reducing anxiety in patients with dementia, and decreasing rates of depression and loneliness. While robatic pets are not living animals, they may be a great solutions for the elderly that would benefit from companionship when they are no longer able to manage the care required of a living pet. This is especially the case for individuals that had a pet pass away, or for those that had to give up a pet because they were not able to keep up with the maintenance a living pet requires. While the trend of robotic pets is still on the rise, they may remedy loneliness, depression and anxiety that the elderly population can experience, to increase their overall quality of life.



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