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The William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette, Alabama was severely critcized in a report by Federal inspectors released last month. The inspection, conducted in February of 2008, found that "deficiencies have contributed to the untimely deaths of … residents as well as led to other preventable illnesses, injuries, and harm." The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, makes findings that should concern anyone with a loved one in that facility:

"… inadequate nutritional and hydration services; improper and dangerous psychotropic medication practices; inadequate pressure-sore treatment and skin care; inadequate restorative care and specialized rehabilitation services; failure to protect residents from harm due to falls; failure to adequately investigate allegations of resident abuse; and the inappropriate use of restraints. … Specifically, we have concluded that numerous conditions and practices at W.F. Green violate the constitutional and federal statutory rights of its residents …"

The state’s Veteran Affairs department strongly disputed the Government’s findings:

Bob Horton, spokesman for the state Veterans Affairs Department, said in an interview Monday the agency has submitted an initial response and will give an official one in coming weeks. The agency and nursing home are "shocked and perplexed" by the nature and timing of the 45-page Justice Department report, Monday’s written statement said.

Horton said nursing home administrators and state officials were not told of any major problems from the time the inspection ended until they received the report just before Christmas.

"If the citations in the report were so severe, you would think the department would have been notified sooner, if there was any potential of veterans being harmed or a risk of harm," Horton said.

If true, this raises issues not only with the management of the facility, but with the Government’s method of providing such homes with notice of the violations. These surveys look at individual cases, not the facility in general. If the violations are ongoing, the facility should be cited immediately. Given that the report states "…that numerous conditions and practices at W.F. Green violate …," that would seem to be the case.

Our nation’s veterans deserve to age with dignity. If you have a loved one in a home and have questions about the quality of care, Medicare has set up a web site that compares facilities. That site also lists the homes that chronically fail Government surveys.

A few tips for making sure your loved one is getting proper care:

– Visit often;

– Make sure that you are notified and attend care plan meetings;

– Visit at different times during the day so the staff does not see a pattern (i.e. – "we have to clean him up because his son will be here in an hour.");

– If the resident has wound dressings, check the dates on them to make sure that they are being changed at proper intervals;

– If there are younger residents in the facility take a few minutes each visit to talk with them. They can be a good source of information and no doubt won’t mind a little company; and

– Get to know the staff. They are generally good people who are overworked, underpaid, undertrained and under appreciated;

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