In the wake of a nursing home double-homicide: How to meet mental health needs and prevent violence (McKnight’s LTC News)
Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:
News of the recent double-homicide in a Houston nursing home arrived the morning I was to speak to a group gathered to address the needs of younger residents in long-term care. It didn’t escape anyone in the audience how serious this topic is — the alleged murderer is 56 years old and one of his two victims was 50 years old.
What can organizations do to respond to this terrible news and to reduce the chances that a similar situation could happen in their facilities? Plenty.
· Soothe nerves by pointing out efforts your facility takes to address agitated residents and maintain the safety of the environment (for example, the security guard, video cameras, separating residents in conflict, etc.)
· Minimize the news coverage of the event in common rooms. Residents who want to find out more information can read the newspaper or watch TV privately. It’s not helpful for most residents to listen to an anxiety-provoking rehash of information, especially when they’re unable to get up and leave the room.
· Train staff to recognize signs of distress and mental illness in residents and have a system in place that allows the information to be communicated effectively. Aides, for example, don’t have to make a mental health diagnosis; they just need to be able to recognize when a resident is behaving differently and communicate it to the nurse. Train nurses to recognize the importance of the information and to work with the team to assess the resident and intervene appropriately. Mental health issues should be addressed as seriously as physical health concerns and staff should have enough training so that they feel comfortable doing so.
· Train your staff on how to defuse verbally and physically aggressive situations. Staff members without proper training often inadvertently precipitate conflict. (For more on this, download my free report, Stop Agitating the Residents, at MyBetterNursingHome.com.)
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