The 10 Biggest Mistakes RCFE’s Make

As humans, we are all prone to error. Even in industries where a single mistake could mean life or death, errors are made. But just because “to err is human” does not make it right. In the case of our aging senior population, RCFE Administrators have a responsibility to the health and wellness of their residents, who in their final years have become wholly reliant on others to meet their needs.

If you already have an RCFE Administrator certificate — or are soon to earn one through an RCFE Administrator course — you are duty bound to provide all individuals in your care with a safe and welcoming environment compliant with all state and local regulations.

Here are numbers 1-5 of the ten biggest mistakes made by RCFE’s — mistakes that make it that much more difficult for you to fulfill your obligations as an administrator.

1.   Admitting inappropriate residents

In 2013, nearly 7,000 complaints were made to the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) regarding resident on resident conflicts in care senior facilities. Admitting sexually inappropriate, offensive, or combative residents into your community is all but certain to cause headaches down the line, and will quickly lead to a hostile and uncomfortable environment for the others in your care.

Residents have a legal right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, and to be treated with dignity and respect. Admitting inappropriate residents and those who mistreat others creates an environment counter to those rights.

2.   Hiring the wrong employees

Your employees are the backbone of your RCFE. They’re the people you interact with everyday and the hands who care for each and every one of your residents. Without them, you would not have a facility. With the wrong ones, your home will suffer for it. The hiring process is a delicate one; rife with potential pitfalls.

Fire-drilling the process of building your team is not the way you will find competent, qualified, candidates who are not only passionate about their work, but also show up day in and day out, even when it’s challenging.

You want people who aren’t just there for a paycheck, but rather come to work every day intent on making the lives of your residents better. Bad attitudes, contemptuousness, and disregard for a resident’s well-being have no place in the care industry, let alone your RCFE.

3.   Not training their employees fully and correctly

None of us walk into work that first day completely prepared for the job we’ve set out to do. The moment you are, you’ve already moved up to the next position. The assumption that someone will be able to hit the ground running and do everything perfectly from day one, is nothing short of folly. Employees need training, always. Not only when they begin, but over time as well. Training keeps us fresh and on top of shifting best practices. Without it, employees won’t be able to do their jobs properly, and if something goes wrong, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

Remember, always document all training an employee has done — otherwise, it did not happen!

4.   Disrespecting the LPA

Licensing Program Analysts, or LPA’s,  are state workers whose responsibility is to manage the licensing, evaluation and investigation of RCFE’s. As employees of the Community Care Licensing Division, about 50% of their time is spent out in the field conducting site visits and inspections of care facilities. They play a vital role in making sure that every RCFE meets state standards and is living up to its mission of properly serving the needs of its residents. Disrespecting your local LPA will do you no favors with the state. They have the authority to issue citations and civil penalties should an RCFE be found to be negligent or deficient — as they should. Viewing him or her as the enemy will accomplish nothing. It is not you against them, but you both against the problem.

5.   Not befriending the Ombudsman

Just as it is important for you to get up know your local LPA, so should you befriend the Ombudsman. As advocates for the residents of assisted living facilities, the Ombudsman only wants the same things you do:  a happy, healthy, and safe resident! Since it’s difficult for an aging person to advocate for themselves, somebody must. Befriending your Ombudsman will only make the process of resolving conflicts within your RCFE easier.

6.   Failing to complete proper resident file documentation

Any time there is a resident incident, such as a fall, it must be documented. Just as incidents like the above need to be reported to the resident’s physician asap (see mistake #10), it’s imperative that these incidents also have a paper trail. Liability is a huge potential problem for any RCFE, so defensive documentation is the best way to keep ahead of any issues down the line. When properly completing resident file documentation, specificity, precision, and descriptive detail are all musts. An incomplete file is not only a possible hazard to your residents, but it’s a lawsuit and a regulatory issue waiting to happen.

7.   Failing to do annual medical assessments on residents with dementia

The seriousness of dementia has lead states to enact numerous laws regulating the facilities accepting individuals with the condition. Among those is a requirement that all RCFE’s perform annual assessments on their residents with dementia. Since changes to one’s condition and behavior are all but certain to impact their care plan or which medications they take (see #9 on this list), it’s imperative that these be noted in a timely manner by licensees. Furthermore, these changes, if severe enough, may require a resident to be moved elsewhere — not all Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly are equipped or licensed to care for people living with advanced dementia.

8.   Failing to complete proper employee file documentation

A thoroughly kept personnel file is necessary to protect an employer in the event of audits or lawsuits, or any other type of employee-employer disagreement. In the case of the later, turnover becomes a risk. If another employee witnessed the issue in question, there’s a chance they are no longer available to give their account, thus forcing an employer to rely only on the documentation available in a personnel file. If few details exist in writing, that leaves the events open to debate, which can make it more difficult for an Administrator to justify cause for termination.

For a personnel file to comply, it should include state mandated  documentation. The file should also include any coaching, known policy violations, resident complaints, any disciplinary actions taken, and whether or not they met their performance goals. This record doesn’t need to be negative alone. A personnel file also serves as a justification of raises and promotions. So any noted positives should be included as well — key contributions, rewards, special recognition, client compliments, etc.

9.   Inadequate resident care plans

The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 was enacted by the federal government with the intention of advancing the rights of nursing home residents. This came after a study in 1986 showing that people living in RCFE’s at the time were not being afforded proper health care or personal treatment. In response, new laws were established that required all nursing homes accepting Medicare to develop detailed care and treatment plans for each resident, and follow them. Additionally, all residents were given the right to review their personal plans and to be given advanced notification of any changes.

Failure to comply with these regulations will not only be interpreted as neglect by regulators and the courts but does nothing but endanger your residents. Care plans exist to prevent elder abuse, minimize the potential for medication mishaps, and reduce the risk of medical mistakes leading to serious injury or even death.

10. Failing to notify the physician of a resident change of condition

The law mandates that any change of condition in the resident, no matter how small, must be communicated to their physician. A change in an individual’s condition could mean the difference between life or death, and a lapse in communication could prevent a resident from receiving critical treatment. It’s imperative that everyone on your resident’s care team is in the loop as changes occur, and it’s doubly important that these changes are noted in writing. We’ve all heard of the game “Telephone”:  word of mouth is terribly unreliable, but words on a piece of paper are far less likely to be misunderstood. Written records reduce the risk that a serious change in condition will get mixed up in the shuffle.

There you have it. Those are the top 10 mistakes that Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly make. Mistakes like the above put your residents at risk and your facility in jeopardy. Luckily, all of them are easily preventable.

Assisted Living Education is the premier provider of RCFE classes, licensing, products and services for assisted living. Our teachers are industry professionals with many years of experience that are engaging, entertaining and highly informative. They offer RCFE consulting services and share real RCFE experience that will help you be successful in this fast growing career industry.

About Assisted Living Education
Assisted Living Education has been operating in and improving the growing senior care industry for over 15 years. Founded by certified RCFE administrators, Jane Van Dyke-Perez and Bill Perez, we have licensed more than 1,100 assisted living facilities and built close relationships with the California Department of Social Services, assisted living managers, owners and industry professionals. As senior living care educators ourselves, we strive to contribute our knowledge and skills to continually improve senior care and the satisfaction of those working in the industry.