Earlier this afternoon I received a very important reminder from an individual who inspects (a/k/a surveys) nursing homes. Each state has a “survey agency”  that is in charge of inspecting nursing homes. The name of the agency is different in each state (in Kentucky this agency works through the Office of Inspector General, while in Indiana and many other states this agency is part of the state Board of Health). Whatever they call this agency in your state, these folks need to hear from family members of nursing home residents and nursing home staff regarding unsafe staffing level and any other care concerns.  Your calls to your state agency (and regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman) are essential in order for problems to be identified and corrective action to be taken! The state survey manager who contacted me wrote,

“When you (and this goes for both families of nursing home residents and nursing home staff) have concerns about the care of a resident or unsafe staffing levels, be sure to CALL your state survey agency! Their number is REQUIRED to be posted in all Medicare / Medicaid-certified nursing homes. We surveyors (inspectors) are here to protect the residents of nursing homes and assure they are getting quality care.

We surveyors (inspectors) are on the side of the residents and staff. Although we are constantly lied to by facility staff and Administrators, we can get to the truth.

In addition to contacting your state survey agency, be sure to get the Ombudsmen involved too! They can be a great resource.

The bottom line is that if we (regulators) don’t know about your concerns, we may not be able to pick up on these issues. Complain to your State survey agency to get your issues investigated and also help prevent others from receiving poor care!”

Some nursing homes have signs posted that ask family members to speak to the facilities administrator when they have concerns (I’ve seen one such sign that practically begged family members to NOT call the state survey agency before talking to the administrator). While this is an appropriate action to take in most circumstances, I believe the state survey agency and Ombudsman should be contacted FIRST when resident safety and well-being is at risk. If speaking to the nursing home’s administrator doesn’t resolve your concern, then by all means call the state agency and Ombudsman!