Most Common Complaints About Nursing Homes From Residents

Published: January 6, 2023
Last updated: April 6, 2023

Millions of elderly and disabled people in the United States receive care in nursing homes and skilled care facilities. While the majority of nursing homes treat their residents with dignity and respect, some do not. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services received over 22,000 complaints about nursing homes, an increase of 6% from the previous year. 

In this article, we'll discuss some of the most common nursing home complaints, which often include poor food quality, social isolation, abuse, and others. 

Common Complaints About Nursing Homes

Common Complaints About Nursing Homes

All nursing home facilities must adhere to a certain standard of care. When they fail to do so, action must be taken to protect the residents. However, they must express their concerns to their loved ones for an appropriate solution to be implemented. At the same time, families of residents must also be aware of the most common nursing home complaints.

Poor Food Quality

Residents of nursing homes are frequently provided with scheduled meals or even 24-hour dining services. While this is a useful feature, poor food quality is another common complaint in nursing homes.

Furthermore, while it is understandably difficult for facilities to please every resident while also ensuring residents receive the nutrition they require and having all their unique dietary needs met, many facilities choose to cut corners in this department. They provide bland meal and snack options, as well as a lack of meal variety daily.

Sleep Disruptions 

Quality sleep is important at any age, but it is especially important for seniors. One of the most common problems that seniors report in nursing homes is difficulty sleeping when they move in. Inadequate sleep can happen for numerous reasons:

  • Staff coming in to take vital signs or administer medication;
  • Staff members talking loudly outside their rooms late at night;
  • Noise and disruption caused by other residents after hours; and
  • Health conditions as a result of stress and old age.

This issue must be addressed immediately, as poor quality of sleep can lead to numerous health problems, especially for seniors.

Social Isolation 

Since most nursing homes are understaffed, nurses and caregivers do not always have the time to interact with residents for extended periods of time. Residents may also feel socially isolated and ignored if their family and loved ones do not visit them frequently.

In addition, some facilities eliminate social activities to save money, leaving residents feeling bored and with few opportunities to interact with others. Residents may also struggle with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression, making socialization even more difficult.

Isolation and loneliness are common issues in nursing homes, and administrators must work to create a more social environment for their residents.

Roommate Conflicts

Another of the most common issues in nursing homes is complaints about other residents, specifically concerning roommates. Having a roommate can be noisy and inconvenient, and living with them may not provide enough privacy. Seniors may be assigned to a room with whom they do not get along or who makes them feel uneasy. They may also believe that their roommates are taking caregiver resources away from them unnecessarily. 

When people share a room, there is always the possibility of conflict due to differences in personalities and interests. If the facility does not have private rooms or you cannot afford one, it is best to give the residents some time to get to know each other.

Slow Staff Response

The most common complaint in nursing homes is that staff members are slow to respond to residents' needs. Residents can be left in their beds or wheelchairs for too long while waiting for care when staff members take too long to respond to call buttons.

Slow response times can cause residents to soil themselves or fall if they try to get up and move without assistance. Slow staff response can also lead to health complications such as bed sores.

Staffing Issues

Nursing homes may struggle to hire and retain staff due to low wages, long hours, and difficult work. Short staffing frequently results in delays between the time residents request assistance and the time assistance arrives.

Some facilities fail to properly train their employees, which can result in dangerous situations for residents. Short staffing is a major issue that frequently results in overworked and frustrated employees. Workplace dissatisfaction, in turn, can overshadow quality care and lead to slow staff response.

Elder Abuse

Abuse in nursing homes and care facilities is all too common. Residents have complained about being mistreated, verbally abused, and neglected. Staff frequently work long hours, and dealing with residents can be physically and emotionally taxing, leading to physical and verbal retaliation.

Financial exploitation is also common. Staff and other residents can steal money from residents, persuade them to sign over important access to their wealth, or persuade them to hand over credit cards or checks.

Missing Or Stolen Personal Items

Items are prone to becoming misplaced in shared spaces. They may not be stolen, but they may be misplaced. It is a good idea to have insurance on easily lost items, such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dentures.

Furthermore, because clothing and money are easy to steal or lose, nursing homes must implement formal policies to reduce theft and loss. These procedures must include the following:

  • Training employees on how to respond to allegations of theft and loss.
  • Creating and maintaining an inventory of each patient's personal property upon admission and throughout their stay.
  • Putting labels on each personal property of every patient.

Every nursing home must have a written policy and program outlining how to handle allegations of theft and property loss. When the admission contract is signed, a copy of that procedure must be given to each resident or resident's representative.

How And When To Ask For Help

Nursing homes promise to provide a haven for the most vulnerable members of our society. However, they do not always keep their promises. If your elderly loved one has experienced any of these complaints about nursing homes, do not let it continue another day. Take action now to ensure your loved ones' safety in the future. If your loved one is residing in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, you may call 1-800-254-5164 or email [email protected] for urgent concerns. 

If you are living with a senior, read this article by Senior Strong on proper caregiving for seniors.

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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