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Nursing home safety issues

January 1, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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When I initially came here I was very concerned about wandering residents. They came into my room whether my door was closed or not. As an incomplete quadriplegic, I really have no way to defend myself other then yelling for help. I cannot move away from a wanderer who gets too close. Therefore I learned how to redirect residents out of my room. Most of the time it worked pretty well but I was always careful to put my call light on so that aides would know I needed help.

After many years here other security issues began to concern me. When I want to go outside alone, I do not feel safe because there is no way for me to get anyone's attention when I want to come back in. I would have to wait for a visitor or travel to the facility's smoking area behind the building to get help. Although there is a doorbell in the front, I am to unable access it. Going outside alone on the weekends is more dangerous for me because there is no staff in the front business offices.

I feel that the nursing home should have surveillance cameras on the front and back doors. It would also be nice if they installed a pressure plate that we could roll or step onto that would sound an alarm. I know that visitors accidentally stepping on it could cause problems. However, if it is marked well I do not think that would happen.

The receptionist should have a mirrored wall in her office so she can see the front door at all times. I think in this day and age it is quite necessary. When an individual shot up a nursing home in North Carolina earlier this year, he found it very easy to get in on a Sunday. I had hoped that incident would convince nursing home owners that they needed better security. But unfortunately, it was considered to be an isolated incident and we heard little about it afterwards.

People can get into this facility quite easily too. They do not have to show identification and staff does not have to wear an ID badge at work. A few times we have had substitute nurses at the last minute. On one such occasion, a nurse came into my room to ask me a question about my medicine. Since she had no ID badge and she was not wearing a white uniform, I was frightened. When I told her that, she was rather astounded.

Over the years, staff has come to work smelling of alcohol or-after a night of partying-hung over. Usually I told someone in management when a staff member smelled of booze. I can only hope that they would send that person home for their safety and the safety of residents.

Everyone knows that there are prescription drugs in this facility. But most do not know how they are secured. Because we have a city park right behind us, someone could try to get into here during the night to get to the drugs.

I think staff should make periodic checks on residents who spend time in their rooms with the door closed. When I am in bed, I can use my cell phone, my blow-in call light, and the TV remote control. Sometimes I have to call the facility number to get nurse aide assistance. My voice is too soft for me to be heard through a closed door.

I have discovered that most staff thinks I am all right if they do not hear from me. But I still feel that they should be aware and check. Sometimes after a fire drill the staff forgets to come back and open my door. They do not remember that my left arm, which is propped up by a pillow, could slip, rendering me unable to reach my call light and leaving me stranded in one spot.

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Southeastern Ohio for the past 13 years.

To send your comments to the editor, e-mail mhrehocik@vendomegrp.com.

Long-Term Living 2010 January;59(1):64

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