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Checking vitals

July 9, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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I cannot remember when my vitals were last taken. They used to be done once a month. But it seems to have been longer than that. 

Nurses do vitals here. Because of that I am reluctant to ask them to check them, when it is not scheduled. I have my own thermometer but I cannot use it myself. As a quadriplegic, I know it is important to keep track of my temp. Even a low-grade fever can be potentially dangerous, especially when the weather is hot.

After lunch the other day Phil (pseudonym) was wheeling behind his nurse asking to have his blood pressure taken. He seemed concerned and his voice was rising. Student nurses were here and Phil could not understand why their assignments would not include taking a resident’s blood pressures. 

Phil followed his nurse while she passed a med. Another nurse tried to quiet him. But Phil was clearly aggravated that his nurse moved away from him. 

Nurses at this behavior facility move away from loud, frustrated residents who are making requests. In that way they reinforce that residents should address them in a calm manner. 

So Phil went to the front office for an ear. There, a woman asked if he had given his nurse enough time to take his blood pressure. After hearing that statement, Phil quieted down. He admitted he just wanted it done. Later, Phil apologized to his nurse, and his blood pressure was probably taken when he calmed down.

I did not feel that because Phil wanted his blood pressure taken that he did not care about other residents. He just wanted his need met.

Many times, because of the busyness of the nurses, I put off asking questions and making requests. Then, hours later during another shift, I realize I forgot to go back to the nurse. 

I think a resident’s greatest concern is that their needs will be forgotten. Most residents realize other residents have important and frequent needs. Some residents have probably been forgotten and feel they must be emphatic to get what they need. 

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Comments

I'm not familiar with a behavior facilities regs, but in our LTC, we take vital signs at the very least weekly on our stable LTC residents. We normally do this on shower or bath days (actually it is done twice a week now that the bath days are twice a week) For most stable LTC residents, this is acceptable since we are striving for a homelike environment.
As yous stated, picking up on a temp change or other vital sign change with your medical history is imperitave. Could you ask them to do it at least weekly or on shower days? This could be included in your care plan.
Nurses are always going to be busy. It is rare or never that they take duties away from us. We need to deal with it. Yes, we forget or get caught up, but that is why most of us carry a sheet and put notes on it. Residents shouldn't be afraid to ask for something but it is good to understand that the nurses do need to prioritize things but will get to you asap.

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...