Friday, March 9, 2012

Oregon seniors fear nursing home, hospital abuse

[caption id="attachment_14654" align="alignleft" width="300"] Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro, Oregon[/caption]

"I hope my kids keep me out of one of those places. Nursing homes are bad enough, but hospitals, well, the stories about them I have heard from my friends makes me worry about what's going to happen to me if my condition gets any worse."

Bob asked that his identity not be revealed for this article as he articulated the worries many seniors have about health and aging.  He and several friends were sharing their experiences at the senior center in Hillsboro, Oregon. Several spoke of hospital errors that had created problems for them, while still others worried over nursing home abuse suffered by friends and wondered how they might escape  having similar problems.

For Bob his children are the answer. "I moved here from California to be near my kids. They tell me they will take care of me if things get tough. Right now I can take care of myself, but it is when I can't that worries me. I don't want to be one of those people left around to get hurt by somebody's mistake. And I hear stories about that, so I know it goes on."

But many seniors don't have that answer, as the baby boomers consist of numerous singles who have divorced or never married and have no children as advocates.  Those who lack social support and advocacy are the ones most likely to be hurt by neglect or other types of abuse. They also face the most difficult challenges in having medical errors not only prevented but have fewer recourses for correcting them or caring for themselves following a major mistake.

Consumer Reports ranks New York as having the most hospitals at the lower end of the scale in patient care. Out of 50 hospitals in the ranking, New York had 30 who scored lowest in the hospital ranking.

According to Consumer Reports, the four safety areas for the ranking include: hospital-acquired infections, readmission rates, and how well doctors and nurses communicated instructions to patients before discharge about follow up issues and concerns and medication instructions.

"Patients receiving care in a hospital expect their safety and well-being to be an absolute priority," said New York medical malpractice lawyer David Perecman, founder of The Perecman Firm, one of New York's medical malpractice law firms. "And they should be able to expect this." David Perecman has been a malpractice attorney for 30 years.

So what precautions can be taken to avoid medical errors and to protect yourself? The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers these suggestions:

Ask questions about the procedures and what you need to do before and afterward. Bring someone with you to help ask those questions, especially if you are worried about tracking your own care.

Write down the list of medications you are taking and those recommended or given during the medical procedures. Be sure to indicate the type of medication as well as the dose. Take the list with you to the hospital.

Get your test results prior to admission and discuss them with your doctor. Do the same when hospitalized.

Get a recommendation from your doctor and others about the best hospitals around for your condition, and if you need surgery find out who will be in charge of your care at the hospital. Make sure medical personnel are alerted about any allergies, medical problems, or problems with anesthesia you might have.

According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals annually. It is that, and the disability caused by medical errors, that worries seniors in Hillsboro, as healthcare continues to remain a major worry about the future of aging in America.

FindtheBest provides a rating for United States Hospitals. For Hillsboro seniors, Tuality Healthcare is the nearest hospital. It is a non-profit acute care hospital. In a survey of 300 or more people, its hospital rating was slightly worse than average for all Hospital Ratings, with 63% of those surveyed reporting they would definitely recommend this hospital.