New York Nursing Home Overlooks a Resident’s Wound

Nursing Home Nightmares

SODUS, NY — “A wound opened up on the outside of her leg and grew quickly. It was the nurses at the outside Dialysis Center who noticed a foul smell and discovered the wound under a bandage.”  (1)

News 10 WHEC reports that they have been tracking the actions of Sodus Rehabiliation and Nursing Center for more than 10 months while proactively advocating on the residents’ behalf to the governement agencies overseeing quality care. Unfortunately, they continue to receive ‘no answer’ or someone telling them they are working on it.

I commend News 10 for using their media to create a platform for the silenced in this nursing home facility. When they flash images regarding the conditions, my stomach turns. I have seen so many images like these in news reports and investigation results. I have witness many injustices. Many can say, “Well, this is media. It’s being dramitzed. It’s not that bad.” Unfortunately, it is that bad.

Untreated wounds are unfortunately prominent in skilled nursing facilities as they form quickly and spread even quicker if staff is not vigilante to address it. Many facilities have programs in place, typically called ‘wound rounds’ so that they are always aware of wounds that may arise due to poor wheelchair/bed ergonomics, inactivity, poorly fitted splints/immobilizers, long periods of time sitting in moist undergarments, etc. This particular example is an escelated case.

As far as why Alana Russell, Director of the Ombudsman program does not seemingly seemed phase as she stumbles through her response: “I…I…th..think its’s, as I said, unacceptable.” For a well-spoken indiviudal it seems she is fumbling through how to respond. I completely understand that she works for NYS…so if she says anything adverse, her job could be in jeapordy—but it doesn’t appear that she even cares beyond her job description! The long-term-care ombudsman program is a volunteer program in which the individuals are able to enter the facility but their scope of authority is limited. If they suspect or are given a complaint, the LTCO can merely ‘file a complaint with the appropriate state agency’. Thankfully, the state must investigate every complaint against nursing home facilities.

According to the NYS Comptroller audit guidelines : “Federal law requires that the investigation of nursing home complaints be initiated within certain time frames depending on the seriousness of the complaint. Investigations of the most serious complaints must be initiated within two days of the complaint. In addition, the Department requires that lessserious complaints (Priority D) be started within 120 days. Also, the Department requires that Division staff complete nursing home complaint investigations within 180 days. “.  Okay, now where is the standard guidelines regarding in what place a complaint may fall? Or is it subjective to whoever may or may not want to take the time to thoroughly investigate it? Unfortunately, I have seen way to many complaints ‘investigated’ and dismissed.

There are so many reasons why nursing home care arrives in this place of sub-par care provision, but I think the largest problems are the seperation between administration and staff, and nursing staff being overworked and underpayed. These healthcare professionals choose to apply to fill positions working with elderly. Apart from some ‘bad apples’, some of whom may be doing it for the wrong reason, I would stand behind the acknowledgment that the nurses and the nursing assistant’s working in these facilities currently or have in the past genuinly cared for older adults and wanted to extend their quality of life.  Unfortunately, in most buildings, there is a strong seperation in communication between the floor and the office which impacts staffing morale. Nursing staff (both nurses and CNA’s) have got to be respected more for their knowledge and practice in the field! A huge part of this is being congniscent of the hours the facility requires them to work as well as their hourly rate. Nursing assistants should not be making a dollar over minimum wage! The indiviudals working the fast food industry should not be working less hours and getting paid substantially more than those indiviudals choosing to care for our nation’s most esteemed and most frail population. Something needs to be done to change the course of fate toward which the nursing home industry is directed.

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Michelle Eliason, MS, OTR/L, C.D.S is both an occupational therapist and CARES Dementia Specialist. She has been an elder care professional for 7+ years. Working in various aspects of the elder care industry has given her a generalist skill set and a broad knowledge base of elder care approaches and resources. Michelle is passionate about influencing the elder care industry advocating against nursing home negligence and elder abuse, and working with older adults to enable them to live in their own homes throughout the aging process.

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Aging with Purpose LLC is the Buffalo NY headquarters of occupational therapy services supporting aging in place by offering a variety of occupational therapy services such as  in-home occupational therapy, a dementia care and maintenance program, and home safety assessments and aging in place services. Head to the Start Here page to find out your next steps! Aging with Purpose is based on the scope of practice offered by occupational therapy and a mission to serve older adults and their caregivers throughout the aging process. More importantly, AWP allows for continuity of care and monitoring throughout the course of Alzheimer's and other related dementias. Check out our blog which offers valuable insights about the nursing home industry, current events in elder care, and useful resources for aging in place. 

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