As someone who worked in the nursing home profession for over 20 years, I was disheartened to read the recent Neglected to Death series, which paints what I believe is an unfairly a negative picture of the care we provide.
To be sure, the situations recently described were upsetting, but they are also rare. The series identifies 54 tragic situations over a five-year period. It fails to mention that over that same time, over 1 million people benefited from exceptional medical care, rehabilitation, life enrichment and social services provided by Florida’s nursing centers.
The aging process can be stressful for family members, even when their loved ones are receiving the best of care. People often don’t understand just how serious the physical symptoms of diabetes and other debilitating diseases can play out on one’s body, or how unexplained mood changes or agitation could mean signs of depression, dementia or some other serious health concern. And if you’ve never witnessed the final stages of life, watching your loved one experience considerable weight loss from a lack of appetite or changes in skin temperature and color can be upsetting and bring out feelings of guilt, anger and frustration.
The holidays are often an occasion when families come together to spend quality time with aging parents and relatives. For some, this may be one of the only times during the year they observe the health and well-being of an aging family member. After reading your articles, families, understandably, have many questions and want to be sure they’re advocating for the best possible care for their loved ones.
It’s unfortunate that stories about nursing home care aren’t news unless something is broken or disturbing. With more than 70,000 seniors living in Florida’s nursing centers today, I believe there are plenty of opportunities to highlight what’s positive and good about the care being provided.
Take Joan, for example, who shared how the team at Park Ridge Nursing Center went the extra mile for her mom and her family.
And Roseann, who commended the caregivers at Whispering Oaks for upholding a strong positive culture.
And a family member at Fletcher Health and Rehabilitation Center who is proud to call all the caregivers her friends and encouraged them to keep up the great work they do, work that often goes unnoticed.
Letters like these pour into our state’s nursing centers every day, but sadly reporters have yet to write about such stories that focus on the love, care and commitment between staff and residents.
Florida continues to make measurable quality gains in nursing center care, with staff who have a passion and commitment to improving residents’ health outcomes. More than 60 percent of Florida’s nursing centers have earned a 4- or 5-star rating for overall quality care from the federal government, and Florida’s level of staff hours spent in resident care is among the top ten in the nation. Centers are also increasing the number of individuals being returned to their homes after successful rehabilitative therapy.
Florida is at a crossroads. People are living longer and requiring more long-term care services, yet our health care labor pool is shrinking. If the media only chooses to expose what’s wrong with nursing homes, why would someone choose long-term caregiving as their career path? Demonizing the profession with sensational stories drives out good caregivers and discourages potential new ones.
I understand the reason for stories like those recently published. But you also need to inform readers about what’s going right in our state’s nursing centers. Perhaps resolve in the new year to tell about the hundreds of thousands of hard-working, professional, quality nursing center caregivers who have dedicated their lives to serving the frail and elderly—and do so lovingly and with respect and compassion every day.