TWO WAYS TO MAKE SAFER NURSING HOMES
Obviously, there are a number of safety issues with any nursing home. However, here are two simple but important areas not to be overlooked:
1. Ask the Director of Nursing or Administrator if the staff receives annual flu shots. Vaccinating employees of nursing homes against influenza helps protect residents, even those residents who have also had the shots. Influenza is a significant cause of illness and death among older people, spreading quickly and often leading to other complications. Read the report on a recent study conducted by the London Centre for Infectious Disease at Bloomberg.com. Also, read what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has to say about flu shots.
2. Ask the Administrator if his/her nursing home is equipped with a fire alarm and suppression system. In Virginia, all licensed and certified nursing homes were required to have such systems as of 1990 (Virginia Code 36-99.9). Not all states have such requirements, or if the requirements are on the books they are not enforced. In 2003, 31 residents died in two nursing home fires in Connecticut and Tennessee. Federal fire safety standards did not require either facility to have fire suppression sprinkler systems. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigated this problem and you may read its report here.