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Ask Dr. Gott 8/1

Nursing home doesn't measure up

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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I'm a loyal reader of your column and feel compelled to write regarding your column on nursing homes. It is not true, as you say, that "any licensed nursing home will deliver good care."
    From sad experience, I know that some licensed nursing homes are greatly deficient. The cause of my mother's death was listed on her death certificate as "accidental." She had fallen out of bed in the nursing home and broken her leg. Accidents happen, but this was the third time she had fallen out of bed. My sister and I were busy addressing many other issues and assumed the home would take proper precautions at night. Obviously, this was not the case. After she broke her leg, I spoke with the administrator, who absolutely refused to have a rail on the bed to prevent another fall. I know there are laws about "restraint," but no one advised us of this before the fall. After mom returned to the nursing home following the fall, at my insistence that something be done, a pad was placed on the floor to prevent her from breaking more bones should she fall out again. Too late! Three weeks later mom was dead.
    I'm convinced that if my mom had been given proper care, she'd still be alive and participating in twice-weekly card games with me. She had been mentally alert.
    At one point, we decided to move her to another nursing home, but we should have done it long before we did. It was too late. Instead, she was moved to the hospital, where she died nine days later.
Now I live with guilt that I didn't make sure mom got the proper care. You need to warn folks about bad nursing homes instead of making misleading statements such as you did in your recent column.
    DEAR READER: Your experience is not unique, nor is it common. You are correct that nursing home licensing does not ensure good care. I apologize for my misleading statement and suggest that you call your state medical authorities and describe your mother's frightful mismanagement. The nursing home administrators need a wake-up call and a change in attitude. If necessary, I am certain that your mother's doctor would be glad to assist you in your efforts to resolve this issue, not only for your satisfaction but also for the safety of other residents in the facility.
    Don't feel guilty. Judging from your letter, which I have shortened because of space restrictions, you behaved appropriately and did everything possible to prevent your mother's death.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Knowing about Nursing Homes." Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed, stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

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