“Allegations Unfounded” ?

Medication error rates of 52-89% on several medications is neglect.

Failure to apply splint correctly 85% of the time is neglect.

Neglect occurs when a person, either through his/her action or inaction, deprives a vulnerable adult of the care necessary to maintain the vulnerable adult’s physical or mental health. Examples include not providing basic items such as food, water, clothing, a safe place to live, medicine, or health care.

Signs of neglect. (from Washington State Department of Social and Health Services)

The above examples of error rates are just a few that have occurred to my son while living at a state operated intermediate care facility for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ICF/IDD).  These issues and others have been reported to the administration and there have been several investigations done and the conclusions returned have been “allegations unfounded.”  I find these conclusions indefensible given the documents that have been submitted for review.

One such issue that went on for several weeks started when my son developed swelling and pain in his right ankle – the ankle that had very recently recovered from a serious sprain.   The lack of response from the medical and nursing team from the very beginning of this injury being reported to the day I removed the splint was met with frustration. It was a very simple and straightforward issue that could have had a very simple and straightforward response – it turned into something totally different.

It was not until I was totally frustrated that I even mentioned the word “NEGLECT” and that is when the superintendent “self-reported” to Residential Care Services  (RCS) and the first investigation was done.  That investigation took several months to complete and the allegations were deemed unfounded.  During those months I was not allowed to talk with anyone at the facility regarding the care since it “was under investigation.”

This is a link to the email exchanges that I had with the Health Care Coordinator (HCC – RN), the Nurse Manager (RN4), the Habilitation Plan Administrator (HPA) and the ICF/IDD Superintendent.

neglect-with-foot-splint-at-fircrest-june-2015

splint-on-wrong-foot-upside-downsplint-on-left-foot-should-have-been-on-right-foot

 

Since that time, I have requested to have the issues investigated again and have provided more documentation to RCS.  I have felt as if I have been the one being investigated because each conversation that I have had with an investigator has started with what they have heard about me – trying to find issues with what I have reported or how I have acted.

The only thing that they have been able to say is that the photos that I have provided are not “proof” because I could have photo-shopped them.  Their “proof” is the documents and charting of their nurses and staff (which now have been found to be in error when trying to reconcile medications dispensed to medications documented as administered).  They have not and will not consider email correspondence or medical charts from outside medical providers.  They have not enlisted healthcare professionals to review the allegations of medical and nursing neglect until this very last investigation involving almost countless medication errors.  Yet, I am the one who is looked at for wrong doing.

In doing the research for these allegations I have learned that the Department of Health and therefore the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission has no ability to investigate since they are not the licensing agency for the healthcare provided at the ICF/IDD.  Since the issues are systemic to the nursing care at the ICF/IDD it is up to the licensing agency to investigate.  Here is a link to the letter I received from the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission – Discipline Section, Health Services Consultant.

dshs-needs-to-look-again-at-nursing-neglect

So, it’s back to the drawing board of contacting DSHS and asking for explanations of why the allegations are unfounded.

All residents are at risk of harm until these and other issues are acknowledged and corrected.

 

Thank you, Alpha Supported Living

This past year has seen great changes for my son and this past Thanksgiving, I realized how much growth my son has made since last Thanksgiving.

Last year, our son, age 21, had lived at the Intermediate Care Facility for people with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID) for 5 years.  The ICF/ID was only 10 minutes from our family home and part of the community in which our son was born and raised.  We had frequent contact, outings and visits both at our home and his.  Unfortunately the team at the ICF/ID was unable to manage my son’s healthcare and daily support needs but we didn’t think we had another option.

I remember not only the great sense of relief I had when I took him back home after our Thanksgiving Dinner last year but also grief and sadness about his increased agitation and manic behavior which was so disruptive.  I questioned if we would be able to have him visit for future family holiday celebrations. He had been experiencing increasing mania and the physicians at the ICF/ID refused to follow the recommendations of our son’s psychiatrist regarding medications to control his mania.  I remember expressing my great concern regarding his increasing mania  to the psychiatrist during our meeting last December and feeling powerless in getting the needed medications prescribed and administered.

This Thanksgiving, our son was a totally different person.  He was at our family home for at least 4 hours and stayed focused and helpful.  His participation in meal prep and tasks was amazing.  He even sat at the table and ate a nice sized meal.  When it was time for me to take him back to his house, I realized that he had set a record for length of time at our house and that I was not totally exhausted and spent from trying to manage his mania, other disruptive behaviors and physical care.

I attribute these great changes to the move he made last spring from the ICF/ID to a supported living arrangement in a home with 2 housemates.  This was made possible by the Roads to Community Living Grant and Alpha Supported Living Agency in being able to provide these great services.  My son has greatly benefited in so many ways and in such a short time.

Within two months of moving and having his care provided by Alpha Supported Living, our son’s health issues were treated appropriately, medications and treatments administered as prescribed and other long standing health issues were addressed and managed.  It was great to see these changes and work with this team to create solutions that worked.   But the improvement and stabilization of my son’s health issues are just the beginning of the changes we have noticed.

Our son is learning new skills and is supported to increase his ability to make choices and take responsibility for various aspects of his daily life tasks.  He is now able to wash his hands, sit at the table and eat a whole meal, clean up his dishes, go grocery shopping for his own groceries, and is very compliant with taking his medications and other responsibilities such as ensuring his iPad is plugged in at night and putting his glasses on his dresser before going to bed. He is able to follow verbal prompts better and stay on task a few seconds longer.  He is becoming more self-directed in being able to communicate his needs and desires.

We are beyond proud of the accomplishments he has made this past year with the support from Alpha Supported Living.  Seeing first hand what a difference this care makes it is imperative for our states to support the wages of the caregivers.  We need continuity of care – both as the recipient of the care and as the caregiver – to continue to provide this care.

Some supported care agencies are experiencing staff turnover rates of 50-70%.  This is not only very disruptive to the clients but increases the overall cost of care when one looks at the cost of recruiting and training a revolving door of caregivers.  Once trained and placed in a job many direct care staff leave due to the intensity of the job and low pay. The state sets the pay rates and it is just not enough to cover costs of the direct care staff.

Supported living is in crisis.  Funding for direct care staff has been ignored for years while costs have continued to increase.  The level of intensity of staff support is increasing and we need to provide the appropriate staff.  This level of care is critical to many in our community to enable them to have a meaningful life experience.

A meaningful life is more than just having support staff in your home though.  It is being able to go out and be in the community.  Many agencies do not have funds to provide transportation or staff for outings, activities and medical appointments.  Many agencies are not able to hire a Registered Nurse to oversee healthcare or have a dedicated Healthcare Coordinator to manage the variety of healthcare needs. Again, the intensity of these needs are increasing.  We need to have providers trained in the particular needs of the population with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These aspects of care should not be “extras” but should be part of the service. But,  unless an agency is able to fund raise for these critical necessities  to a meaningful life, the clients will go without.

In my son’s situation, the transportation and healthcare are paramount to the success he is experiencing. .  My son has a job at Lowe’s working 2 hours each weekday morning  (supported employment provided by PROVAIL). and needs transportation to and from work .  He also has medical treatments at least 3 times a week for which he needs transportation and support at the treatment in addition to other medical appointments about once a week.  Without a dedicated vehicle for each home supported by Alpha Supported Living these necessary trips would be impossible.

It is only through fund raising that Alpha Supported Living is able to provide these life necessities to ensure not only the basics are provided but other opportunities to have a meaningful life – art classes, walking clubs, cooking groups, community outings are just a sampling of the other “extras” that help to provide quality experiences to one’s life.

Living in a home with supported living as opposed to in a state operated ICF/ID, is a collaborative effort.  We, as parents, guardians, residents, community members and staff, can make a real difference.  We can adapt to changes better and address issues directly when they arise.  There is more control over one’s life.  We can actually DO something to help make one’s live more meaningful – something that we generally cannot do for those who live in a state operated ICF/ID.

Below are some suggestions for what you can DO to help make someone’s life better:

  1.  Communicate this great need to our legislators – we need to meet minimum wage requirements and keep pace with the cost of living increases that we all experience.

2. Make a donation to a supported living agency to help provide for supports other than direct care staff wages.

Below is an example of how your donation helps to improve the quality of life of clients supported by Alpha Supported Living Services:

alpha-support-is-critical

(for clarification on the RN – this amount  has to do with the amount needed to bridge the gap between what Alpha is funded and what they provide. The professional services rates they receive from DDA provide for a part-time RN. The amount listed gets them to a full-time RN for 6 months)

If you would like to donate to Alpha Supported Living Services you can reach them at

Alpha Supported Living Services

MAIN OFFICE
16030 Juanita-Woodinville Way NE
Bothell, WA 98011

t 206 284 9130 | f 425 420 1133

 

Please join me in making a monthly donation to Alpha Supported Living Services – it WILL make a difference in someone’s life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whistleblowing

Someone needs to speak up and I’ll keep speaking up until some of these serious issues of healthcare inequity are actually looked at and corrected

A recent blog posting entitled “The Journey of a Whistleblower: The Challenges, the Pains and the Price ” identifies some of the issues when one is faced with some ethical decisions.

While my son was a resident at a state operated intermediate care facility, I brought issues of concern to the administration and the medical director.  When no action was taken, I approached the Human Rights Committee of the facility.  They did not think that the issues of healthcare neglect and injury were a concern of theirs.  I then went to the advocacy group for the residents of the facility.  The president told me that their goal was only to keep the facility open – they had no say in assessing or measuring standards of care.

Obviously the healthcare and quality of life for the residents was not on the radar of any of these groups.

So, I keep trying to get people, organizations, legislators and agencies to see the serious concerns with medical and nursing care at some of these facilities.

If your loved one was dependent on the care provided in a healthcare facility, would it be important to know that all the prescribed medications and treatments were administered?  Or would it be okay for the nurses to only administer sometimes but document that all prescribed administrations were completed?

Would medication compliance rates of 11-46% be acceptable to you?  These rates are certainly not acceptable to me.

But it’s not just the low compliance rates I’m concerned about – it’s the years of falsified records across the board on a variety of medications by many nurses that is a huge concern.  Who is to know if the medications are really administered with so little oversight?

Who monitors medication administration – apparently no one and this is a major problem that needs immediate attention.

There is immediate jeopardy to all residents of the facility until the medication administration problems are examined and corrected. It is shameful on the part of our state agencies that these practices have been and still are accepted practice.

As a nurse myself, I know this practice is unethical and illegal to falsify these documents.  I question the level of integrity of the nurses working at this facility who routinely engage in this illegal activity.

This time has come to go outside the state organizations and inform others.  It is not just about keeping a facility open, it is about providing safe, quality care.  Care that is not happening at this time.

 

Healthcare at the Intermediate Care Facility

Who oversees the healthcare at the intermediate care facility for those with intellectual disabilities (ICF/ID)?  If you have a loved one who lives in an ICF/ID it may be worth looking into this to ensure that the healthcare actually does at least meet the minimum standard of care.

This was not the case in the ICF/ID that my son lived in.  I first started noticing problems the first year he lived there and I tried to work with the team and work within the system to improve the care, provide education and collaboration.  As system after system broke down and my son’s health grew worse I was making more and more trips to his home to provide the care and treatments that were supposed to have been provided by the nurses and team at the ICF/ID.

I knew the medications were not being applied but since the nurses were charting as given that was proof that the medications were being applied as prescribed. The fact that my son was not responding indicated that more potent medications were needed in addition to other medical treatments to control his inflammation.  These other treatments are not without risk and actually do increase his risk of cancer but we needed to get the inflammation under control and his immune system stabilized.

I was visiting at least 4 times a week and would apply his topical medications when I visited – knowing that he would at least be getting them when I was there.  They were actually supposed to be applied twice a day  and were charted as being applied twice a day but that is not what was happening.

After we moved our son to supported living and his care staff  applied the prescribed medications as ordered his inflammation quickly was controlled.  In about one month’s time the inflammation that had been extremely problematic for 3 1/2 years was now in total control.  His lab work was essentially normal after 3 1/2 years of having hematological problems. The medications actually did work – they were just not being administered as prescribed.

Now that I have the actual pharmacy and nursing records to review, I have found 9 medications that were falsely documented as being given for 1-3 years.  As a nurse I am totally appalled at the lack of quality and integrity that was accepted and not even questioned and do not understand how these dramatic errors can go unnoticed and uncorrected.

Below are charts of 5 of the medications showing the dates of administration, the amounts the pharmacy (at the ICF/ID) dispensed and the amounts that were charted as given. The compliance rates are unbelievable!  Who would accept these rates as meeting any type of standard of care? Why is this acceptable at the ICF/ID?

medication-1medication-2medication-3medication-4medication-5

It’s not just nursing that was the problem.  There was to be a 90-day medication review or reconciliation.  The purpose of this is to check each medication and ensure it is still needed and is indicated and the correct dose is prescribed.  Obviously the medication reviews were not done (but were signed off as being done)  since 3 of these medications were only needed for a short time (1 month or less) but remained in my son’s active  medication profile for up to 3 years dispensed and signed off as administered.   Who really knows what was given and what was just charted on as given.

How is one supposed to know if a medication is working or not when there is this type of record keeping?

There are so many problems that can be identified just with these medication errors.  This is at a state operated facility and so far the state investigation has stated that the allegations are unfounded based on the fact that the nurses charted the medications as given as ordered.

The state agency that oversees this facility is the Department of Social and Health Services.  Unfortunately, complaints to the Medical Quality Assurance, Nursing Quality Assurance, Department  of Health, Pharmacy Quality Assurance are unable to provide any guidance since they do not oversee any of the services at the ICF/ID.  It is up to DSHS and they do not see any problems.

Residential Care Services has opened up another investigation to review these issues and other allegations healthcare abuse and neglect.  My hope is that this time they will be able to see the problems and work on a plan for correction so that the residents do indeed have healthcare that at least meets the minimum community standard of care.  Currently that is not happening.

 

 

 

Paid to not think

One hot day I visited my son at his home at the state operated intermediate care facility where he lived.  There was a portable oscillating fan going in the living room.   I was glad to see that they had provided some sense of cooling to the room.

As my son made his way over to the fan I knew he would try to touch it as this would be typical behavior for him but I wasn’t concerned since fans have covers on them which prevent him from putting his fingers into it.   As he stuck his finger into it and the blades stopped and he pulled his finger out yelping, I suddenly realized that this fan had no front screen protector on it.  I could not believe that the staff would put such a fan right out in the open.

The two direct care staff were right there and when questioned, they stated they knew there was not a cover but they had asked the charge about it and there was not another fan to use.  I then left to go ask the charge myself about the fan.  The charge staff just shrugged his shoulders and said there had been a cover yesterday.

At that time I saw another fan that was not being used and asked the charge if I could take that one to use.  He was non-committal and totally unconcerned and was not going to do anything.  Since he wasn’t going to give an answer I asked what I could do and he told me I could go to the duty office.  So now I went to the duty office to inquire about a fan.

At least the person in the duty office had an answer – that unused fan belonged to someone else and I couldn’t just take it to use in my son’s home. That was an answer that I could work around but what I couldn’t grasp was the total lack of concern of common sense on the part of the direct care staff or the charge person for the unit.

When I brought this safety concern to the attention of administration I was told that the staff are not trained to think – they are only to take orders and they fear that if they make any deviation from that order they will be reprimanded.  This answer also made sense and was obviously correct from my observations of what had occurred but was far from reassuring that these direct care staff were in charge of the care of my son and his housemates.  .

I thought of this situation yesterday after I had a meeting with the new Clinical Director of the Outpatient Specialty Healthcare Clinic I work at. He referred to the book by David Marquet Turn the Ship Around .  As I was listening to the talk and watching the video I realized that part of the problem in the state operated Intermediate Care Facility was the fact that the direct care staff are paid to not think.  They have no ownership, do not feel valued and are uninspired by their lack of decision making power.

This total lack of accountability is something that I have now witnessed from the bottom ranks of the organization to the top of the state operated intermediate facility and the agency that licenses it.   While I fully believe we need to have the continuum of care I am angry at the lack of accountability and the fact that when issues of concern are brought to attention they are covered up rather than dealt with.

We are entrusting the care of our loved ones to a work force that is not allowed to think. This scares me and is great concern and I can’t keep quiet about it. While I understand that a state operated facility works withing the government and change may be hard, change is not impossible.

Denial is a powerful tool.

 

 

 

 

 

Thrown Off Balance

The past couple of years have seen a shift in my understanding of the quality of care that is provided for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  What I had been told and what I had believed were not the reality of the situation and it has been a soul-searching experience to confront the issues and to take action.

We started experiencing problems in the year 2011 regarding issues of medical and nursing care that was substandard and downright neglectful.  I started working my way up the “chain of command” within the intermediate care facility which was just an exercise in frustration that I would learn would only get worse as the years progressed.  I didn’t want to make trouble and I didn’t want to have a big investigation done.  I just wanted the appropriate medical/nursing care to be provided for my son and others.

After I exhausted all avenues I knew for healthcare I then approached the Human Rights Committee and outline the Resident’s rights and how they had been violated.  Again,my concerns were discarded.  I approached the advocacy group for the facility and my concerns were not a priority.  Their priority was to keep the facility open and any issues that caused concern for care were ignored for fear it would give the “opposition” more fuel for closure.

While I am very concerned about the loss of access to campus based communities and intermediate care facilities, I do not want to compromise on appropriate healthcare that at least meets the minimum standard of care.  The care my son was receiving fell far below the minimum and I’m assuming that the healthcare of others was also compromised.

Jumping forward 5 years, the problems became more profound and pervasive.  It was at this point that the facility actually “self-reported” to the State Investigative Unit since I had claimed there was neglect on the part of the healthcare team and had become so frustrating trying to work with the “team” – as guardian I was excluded from most meetings and not considered part of the team or someone who needed to be consulted or listened to.   Neglect was the key word which was taken seriously.  Unfortunately, the actions taken were again just another exercise in frustration.

It was at this point that I actually started to ask questions about what state agency actually licensees and oversees the healthcare clinic.  I learned it wasn’t actually a “clinic” but only space that each professional was allowed to use for paperwork.  There was no medical director and there was no healthcare oversight.   This revelation was a huge problem with access to appropriate healthcare for the residents.

In my audit of my son’s charts I have discovered so many medical and nursing errors in addition to errors in policies and protocols that it is shocking.  For instance in the case of 90-day medication reviews there were over 8 medications that were charted as given once or twice a day by the nurse for a period of 1-3 years. They were not given – this was false documentation.   These medications were indicated at one time but at a 90 day medication review they should have been looked at and the questions asked if they were still indicated and if not, they should have been discontinued.  Instead the nurses just kept signing off they were given  – some had never even actually been given at all.  As a nurse I find this totally unimaginable.

This is not only a problem with nursing documentation but also with pharmacy reviews and the “team” 90 day medical review.  These reviews had been signed off as being done and in some cases a medical doctor wrote “med review – no changes” when there had been significant changes in just the couple of weeks prior to the review.  If I had been notified of these reviews or a 90 day medication reconciliation form sent to me, I could have very easily have seen what problems were there.  Being left out of the team and not allowed to perform my legal duty as guardian caused many problems.

At this time, until these issues are objectively reviewed by an independent investigator and the problems actually addressed and not swept under the carpet, I cannot support these types of intermediate care facilities.  The Federal Regulations need to be followed and the appropriate care provided.  I know in the case of my son this was not happening – I hope it’s not the case for everyone.

 

Supported Living Crisis

It is absolutely necessary that we provide funding to support our direct care providers in the community settings.  We have been in a crisis situation and it is only getting worse.  It is time to step up and provide the support that we all say is needed but do not provide the funding to back the words up.

Please read the position paper Underfunding of Community Residential Services by the Community Residential Services Association.  While I do not have all the cost reports of the community service providers nor the cost reports of the state funded services to compare the cost of care, I do know that the cost of direct care for those with high support needs is about equal across the board.

It is the costs of all the other services that add up and can make one type of residential setting appear more costly than another.  It also depends on what is included in the cost reports.  I believe there is cost shifting and capital costs which may not be reflected but, again, I do not know for sure since the data is extremely difficult to sift through.  It is something to take into consideration.

Regardless of the cost issue there are other major concerns that need to be factored in. Personal Choice of residential setting, access to quality health care, continued learning opportunities, employment and meaningful life activities all need to be included in the big equation.

There is not one type of residential setting that guarantees that all these aspects of life will be met or even considered but I do believe that living close to family, friends and natural supports does increase the chance that the person will have a meaningful life that is fully integrated into community.