LAURINBURG — In a two-hour forum on senior care facilities, family members urged state officials to do more to protect their loved ones.
About 60 people attended the event at Scotland Place with state lawmakers and representatives of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Concerns expressed by attendees included the shortages of qualified employees, patients-to-caretaker ratios, food quality, and activities for patients. State officials hoped to provide information on patients’ rights and the rules regulating facilities.
Larry Graham, whose wife was a former patient at Willow Place Assisted Living and Memory Care in Laurinburg, one of the 416 certified nursing homes in the state, said his wife was not properly cared for at the Scotland facility
“For 47 years I have been with my wife and I just want to see her taken care of and she is not being taken care of,” Graham said, who added that he often had to drive to the care facility to take her to the hospital himself.
Graham also pointed out that with the lack of caregivers, patients are not washed and dressed until 10 a.m. and breakfast is cold.
Other audience members talked about similar issues at other facilities. They explained that at some centers, one caregiver is responsible for as many as 15 patients.
“More help is needed. I don’t know if the state has the funds or the facilities have the funds to hire more staff, but I know that will certainly help,” an audience member said. “Staff members are overworked and in most cases just simply burned out,” said , who suggested training volunteers to help in facilities.”
North Carolina law does not require a certain ratio between patients and care givers, according to Megan Lamphere, Department of Health Services Regulation chief and adult care licensure section.
The state does have minimum staffing requirements and providers can choose to have more employees if it is necessary to give proper care to patient.
“The facility must staff to meet the needs of the residents,” Lamphere said.
She also added DHHS does not make up its own policies and requirements, which are created in the General Assembly, and any changes would have to be done by state lawmakers.
“We wish we could fix that. It’s awful,” said Cindy Deporter, DHSR state agent director, assistant chief acute home care. Under current regulations, nursing homes are mandated to have eight hours of nursing coverage per day, however the presence of a registered nurse does not have to be at the same time each day, Deporter said.
The forum was organized by state Rep. Garland Pierce of Wagram following reports that the state had cited Willow Place for 16 violations. Pierce and state Rep. Charles Graham of Robeson County, who also attended, said they would be willing to sponsor legislation to help improve long-term care in North Carolina.
“You’ve got two sides to every story and I still think we have an obligation to these citizens and facilities,” Pierce said. “We as citizens and families have a desire for family members to be treated right. I am not saying they aren’t cared for, but I am not here everyday, their family members are.”
For information on long term care, regulations, facility ratings, facility violations, and to file a complaint, visit www2.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171