Groups Try To Improve Arkansas Nursing Homes Through Evaluation And Training

Sep 9, 2013

Officials with the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care are touting efforts underway to improve nursing homes in the state.

Through the nonprofit’s Arkansas Innovative Performance Program, teams of experts are providing on-site assistance to Medicaid-qualified nursing homes and additional training for employees certain facilities.

Betty Bennett works with the program and oversees efforts to monitor and enhance the quality of care for elderly nursing home residents. She says there has been a cultural shift over the last decade to improve conditions and make sure elder-care facilities are providing patient-centered results.

“There is now an emphasis on residents having more involvement in what actually happens to them and facilities are tailoring programs to the needs of the residents and not the needs of the staff,” Bennett said. “For instance, now nursing homes are [creating] better dining options for residents; allowing residents to live with their pets; and facilities are giving residents a choice of when they wake up, go to sleep, or receive their medicines.”

Bennett says the Arkansas Innovative Performance Program has worked closely with about 52 facilities since 2010 to ensure nursing homes become more responsive to the medical, emotional, and social welfare needs of residents.

Julie Kettlewell is the Assistant Vice President of Quality Programs for the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care. She says nursing homes in the state are heavily regulated and her team is trying to make sure families and patients are more engaged in the process of how long-term care facilities are run.

“We’ve been working for years on reducing pressure ulcers, or bedsores, and reducing the use of physical restraints for patients,” said Kettlewell. “Now, we are branching out and really trying to reduce the use of antipsychotic [medications] to treat residents who have dementia… and that’s all going to benefit patients.”

As of June 2013, Kettlewell says experts have completed nearly 1,500 consultations at 210 Medicaid-qualified nursing homes in Arkansas. She says teams continually work with nursing home staff to identify areas for improvement, as well as monitor those facilities over a period of time to ensure they sustain certain changes.

“We have an analytic department and we receive data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. After analyzing the data, we share that information with the nursing homes and give them a quarterly report, or an every six-month report, to show them whether or not they are making progress,” said Kettlewell.

Janie Ginocchio with the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care says statistical data on the quality of care in nursing homes is important, but families still must do their part.

“The considerations that need to be made are going to be unique to every family situation so it’s important to question administrators at the facility and to visit the nursing home and take a look around. While there, see if the residents are happy, if they are being well-cared for, and if amenities or the programs being provided fall in line with your family member’s interests or needs,” said Ginocchio. “It’s up to each individual family to determine what nursing home is best for their family member.”

So far, the Arkansas Innovative Performance Program has trained over 638 nursing home professionals to aid efforts designed to enhance the wellbeing of residents at elder-care facilities.