If your loved one is suffering from dementia, you should be sure that any nursing home you may be considering is equipped to care for dementia patients, thus allowing for a more beneficial experience for the patient, not to mention a safer one.
Dementia is caused by damaged brain cells, which leads to a deterioration in cognitive abilities, including memory, speech, and understanding. Numerous diseases lead to dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 70% of all dementia cases. Other diseases leading to dementia include Parkinson’s disease and vascular disease.
In choosing a home for a dementia patient, you should first carefully evaluate the skills and background of the staff. Understaffing and poorly-trained staff are severe problems in California nursing homes due in part to the rise in the sheer number of patients, but also to health facilities cutting corners to improve profit margins. Staff should be trained specifically in dealing with the symptoms of dementia so that they are aware of the special needs involved. You should inquire about the kind of training staff members receive, whether the training is ongoing, and whether staff is trained in handling the sometimes difficult behavioral characteristics of dementia patients. Finally, excessive administering of psychotropic drugs to patients is a problem that has become rampant in California and across the nation. You should inquire about the facility’s practices in this regard, and ensure that it follows California and federal law prohibiting off-label use of medications.
Additionally, nursing home facilities will frequently keep dementia patients within confined areas, sometimes by locking doors to prevent the patient from leaving a room. Under California law, only the resident or a court appointed conservator can give consent to the facility to place the resident in a locked or secured perimeter facility. A conservator may only authorize such action if given specialized dementia powers under California probate law.
It is also imperative that a nursing home facility provide services to patients at every stage of the dementia process. Many facilities are capable of handling the earlier stages, but are ill-equipped for the amount of care required for those patients in the later stages of dementia. As well, any facility that is serious about treating dementia will have a separate unit for dementia patients.
The atmosphere of the nursing facility is also very important. A serene environment is essential for proper care of a dementia patient. Calm surroundings can help the patient become accustomed to a familiar routine, reduces the amount of confusion the patient experiences, and allows the patient to concentrate and rest. Loud televisions, bright lights, and glare can cause stress and confusion in the patient. Competing noises, such as a radio and television playing at the same time, can also be highly agitating. Any changes in the environment of the home or the individual’s daily routine can cause confusion. A complicated room or facility layout can cause the patient to become lost. Confusing patterns on carpets, walls, and furnishings can also cause disorientation. You should be highly cautious of any facility that has not taken into consideration one or more of these factors.
Christopher C. Walton is a California elder abuse lawyer whose practice is dedicated to issues involving nursing home abuse & neglect. If you suspect your loved one has suffered from abuse or neglect, please call us at (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation.