Ohio task force collects nursing home stories to improve elder care
A new task force is collecting information about the quality of care and the quality of life provided in Ohio’s nursing homes.
The Ohio Governor’s Nursing Home Quality & Accountability Task Force is traveling across the state hosting public listening sessions. It invites nursing home residents, owners, workers and family caregivers — encouraging them to describe the quality of care and quality of life provided in the state’s nursing homes.
Tuesday, they hosted a public listening session at Sinclair Community College. But some attending say the task force is late to the party.
“I have photographs from his stay in a nursing home, violations from the state of Ohio and so far all the complaints I’ve filed, except for one — had no response — so who do we call?” Anne Holbrook’s experience with a nursing home for her father in law was frustrating. Her frustration is shared by others at the meeting.
There are more than 960 nursing homes in Ohio. About 83,000 people call them home.
Rebel Marcum’s mother has dementia and is in a nursing home. Marcum and others agree staff shortage is a major problem.
“There are times when I’ve gone in to visit her — there’s been no nurse on duty — and there’s been one aid. There are 19 people in the memory care unit. If there’s no nurse on duty, who’s giving the medication?" Marcum asked. "The whole point of having her in [a nursing home] is so I don’t have to worry about how she’s getting cared for. And I worry [24/7] if she’s getting taken care of.”
Jesse Ruffin and his wife Caroline were married for 44 years. He was her primary caregiver. "She had a brain tumor, had surgery which was successful and we went in the nursing home to get rehabilitation."
He took her to 5 different nursing homes as she recovered. All were understaffed — putting Caroline at risk.
“Somehow she ended up falling on her head. So, I decided to move in with her and be an assistant to her room only for her for 3.5 years. And I actually slept there," Ruffin explained.
Jacqueline DeGenova is a long-term care ombudsman. She said more needs to be done. “With the boomer generation aging at a pace that I think the state needs to figure out the best way to manage the needs of the population as they grow older.”
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services scores nursing facilities that accept their payments. The scores range between one and five stars for quality in various categories.
One equals much below average. Five equals much above average. Ohio ranks 39th in the most recent overall Quality Star Ratings.
According to Governor DeWine’s office — many of the state’s nursing facilities are inconsistent in their compliance with standards of care, being forced to repeatedly correct the same deficiencies.
Andrea Long’s 80-year-old mother has dementia and lives in a nursing home. Long said she has to closely monitor her care.
“They thought they were going to keep her doped up, they gave her the wrong prescription. Instead of once a day, they were giving it to her three times a day. So every time I went in there she was sitting there, just out of it, sleeping," Long recalled. "They’ve been so short staffed, every time my sister and I visit her– she’s either wet or all messy.”
Meanwhile, Long applauds the Task Force for hosting the public meeting — calling it empowering. “Picking up a few key words that will help me in my journey — as far as what’s legal and what’s not as far as how they treat my mom. Gaining a lot of knowledge.”
DeGenova admitted many of the state’s nursing homes will benefit from new initiatives. Until then, she encourages family to stay connected.
"In caring for parents and finding a nursing home, be involved as much as you can," DeGenova said. "Have a regular presence and guiding their care through their needs is what we hear does the best for loved ones and friends."
For the next few months, the task force will travel across the state hosting public meetings. It’ll compile into a report — personal stories, incidents and other information for Governor Mike DeWine.