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What to look for in avoiding a 'black' nursing home

17 Comments

Is there a suggestion box at the entrance? Are there security cameras on the ceiling?

Let us say you have an aged parent who can no longer be accommodated at home. Or perhaps you yourself are getting on in years and noting with dismay your diminishing powers, physical and mental. A nursing home is a facility of last resort; we’d all prefer never to need one – but the dark side of extreme longevity is the grim truth that at some point we probably will.

There’s another grim truth while we’re on the subject, and it came to the fore in news of three suspicious deaths within two months late last year at a Kawasaki nursing home called S Amiyu Kawasaki Saiwai-cho, three of whose residents, aged between 86 and 96, fell to their deaths from balconies attached to their rooms. The degree of neglect and abuse that may have been involved in these particular incidents remains under investigation, but in an industry notoriously understaffed, overworked, hyperstressed and underpaid, what kind of treatment can be expected? Shukan Post (Oct 16-23) raises the question and offers advice on what to look for when seeking a nursing home for yourself or a family member.

The presence or absence of a suggestion box and security cameras is the first thing to be alert for as you make the rounds of prospective facilities. A suggestion box implies staff and management care what residents and their families think. Security cameras are not, as some nursing home officials claim, violations of privacy but assurances of safety and accountability. The absence of cameras at S Amiyu Kawasaki Saiwai-cho is said to be hindering investigation of the three deaths there, and may mean the full truth never comes out.

Clues abound. Know what to look for, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the place is run even before you start talking to the staff. Are there photos on the walls of happy outings, parties and the like? If so they speak for themselves. If not – why?

Use your nose, not only your eyes. A smell of ammonia is a bad sign – it’s a convenient but insufficient disinfectant in a place where excretion is not always under control. Do residents in the corridors have body odor? It may mean bathing is perfunctory or neglected altogether. Bad breath suggests inadequate attention to oral hygiene.

You’ll be taken to see the rooms. Note, again, the walls. Are they decorated? If so, how? Do the rooms have a generic feel, one very much like another? That may reflect how management regards clients – one very much like another, little respect for individuality.

Even the best facilities in terms of atmosphere, state-of-the-art sensors to keep track of residents who wander, and so on, are only as good as their staffs, of course, and what can you find out, before you commit yourself, about them? Ask questions – many questions, even fussy ones. Do they provoke irritation? Bad sign. Glance at the duty roster, if you can – get an idea how long the shifts are. S Amiyu Kawasaki Saiwai-cho had eight to 10 staffers on day duty, and three on night, for 80 residents – not enough, says Shukan Post. The industry standard is two night staffers per 15 residents.

We’re all human. All humans age, and lose something in the process. Caring for the elderly is an onerous responsibility, calling for patience and compassion. Caregivers are human too. Their work calls for vast stores of patience and compassion. Some have it, some don’t. Some businesses are honest, others aren’t. The English word “black” occurs a great deal lately in Japanese journalism, principally in connection with “black companies” that exploit employees and customers to the very limits of the law and often beyond. Watch out, warns Shukan Post, for “black nursing homes.”

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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This actually reads like some useful advice for people who have no idea what to look for in care homes - it's a handy checklist you can add to.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The degree of neglect and abuse that may have been involved in these particular incidents remains under investigation, but in an industry notoriously understaffed, overworked, hyperstressed and underpaid, what kind of treatment can be expected?

We can expect from a compenant administration to raise the official minimum wage of the care workers significantly, cut down their working hours drastically, and bring in more immigrants to fill the gap. We can expect that from a competant administration.

The presence or absence of a suggestion box and security cameras is the first thing to be alert for as you make the rounds of prospective facilities. A suggestion box implies staff and management care what residents and their families think. Security cameras are not, as some nursing home officials claim, violations of privacy but assurances of safety and accountability. The absence of cameras at S Amiyu Kawasaki Saiwai-cho is said to be hindering investigation of the three deaths there, and may mean the full truth never comes out.

Then make it a LAW to have BOTH security cameras and suggestion boxes installed in the facilities. I would also add a complaints box accessed once a week ONLY by the city hall in the city the facility is in to continuously be aware of any complaints the residents have.

Clues abound. Know what to look for, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the place is run even before you start talking to the staff.

Why aren't public officials being trained to do this? Why not the police? Seems like a better use of their time and effort rather than stopping us and asking us for ID....

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The first thing I would look for is a government and localities that enforce the laws they make, and not just pay lip service to issues and pat themselves on the back. If they know of these 'black' nursing homes and companies, why don't they enforce the laws and punish them? But hey, this is a nation where the police go and celebrate with the yakuza when new leaders are chosen, or just for nomikais.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Use your nose when you tour a facility. If you smell piss, better go elsewhere.

in an industry notoriously understaffed, overworked, hyper-stressed and underpaid, what kind of treatment can be expected

Sadly, the core of the problem

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Good piece. Also watch for suspicious charges, particularly for items that the place wants you to buy directly from them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I work in this industry and I just have to say some of the problems listed in the article are actually questionable or need some clarification. Have the author actually been to some nursing home?

Security cameras? Where? Inside the private rooms? If so... yes, it's a violation of privacy. One of the basic principles when someone get a caregiver certificate is to respect the privacy (they change clothes, they get their diapers changed, they talk with their relatives inside the room, etc). If would be almost the same as installing a camera inside a hotel room, for example. Common areas (hall, living room, entrance of the building, etc) are okay, of course, but never a private room.

Body odors and oral hygiene? Some diseases affect these, doesn't matter how well-conducted it is. Also, at most places, bath is not an everyday thing (twice a week is common); and sometimes some of the residents may simply refuse to go to bath (you can't force them, after all) or can't bath because of some problem with their vital signs (checked everytime before going to bath). Of course, I'm talking about feeling the odor when close to the person, not meters away...

Room with a generic feel are actually standard. That's to ensure there's no difference between treatment dispensed and also to avoid a situation where one doesn't like the room decoration. They are, though, allowed to decorate the room themselves, bringing some furniture, appliances and almost whatever else they like. THAT's "respect for individuality", not some wall decoration you push just to say one room is different from another...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Like I have said many times here, do YOU wanna grow old in Japan.......... I don't!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

GW, compared to what country? Japan still has a better senior care system than the States, where helpers are often not given proper training.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I've had friends who have lived in both excellenty run and "black" homes for the elderly. The place here in Tokyo where my mother-in-law, who lived to the age of 104, resided was a really nice place to live in. On the other hand, my Japanese friend and his wife lived in a retirement home here in Tokyo that milked them out of a lot of money. He got fed up with what he said was shoddy food and personal treatment. They then fled to an outlying city in another prefecture where they lived out their lives in, what I heard, comfort.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

greatyuito,

Yeah well lots of stuff in the ""greatest country in the world" is sub par, hardly news there.

However looking at whats on offer to seniors here is pretty grim, most places look more sterile than hospitals, utterly devoid of any atmosphere. The costs, sorry but only the well off even have these as an option, then add in these black places

And finally the waiting lists are currently over 500,000 nation wide NOW & that number will clearly skyrocket, then if you figure the much larger number who cant even afford these crappy "homes" then again I ask

Do YOU want to grow old in Japan, I sure as hell DONT!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@ greatyuito- To work in a care facility, at least by my experience in Washington state or California (and I'm sure others), a person must be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). So they do have proper training. But that doesn't stop individuals from hiring anybody for personal care in a private home.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Watch out, warns Shukan Post, for “black nursing homes.”

Why's it gotta be black, eh?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I know this article is just a translation and is not intended to be read by foreigners but I wonder what all the guys reading it here plan to do before care home time comes around. I've personally only met a couple of foreigners who stayed in Japan after retirement. If you have a Japanese spouse and Japanese-raised children you can hardly leave. Any thoughts on retiring in Japan? Foreigners in care homes? I've been here 20 years and I'm wondering what do after another 20 fly by.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Big C

Yeah you & me & I bet LOTS of others have the same thoughts, bottom line is you will need LOTS of yen if you want that might be decent.

Other than that keep in good health & stay the hell away from these places long as you can & hope you don't go down slow, I think it will be pretty hard to stomach living in these "homes" from what I have seen.

Hopefully they will get their act together & there will be more & better options but I really cant see it happening

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@vallum

Security cameras? Where? Inside the private rooms?

These problems are not only in Japan... In France there was a story about the son installing a "private" camera in his mother's room so that he was able to prove that she got regularly beaten and that, since her door was always left open, people just came in and helped themselves to her belongings. If a family member installs a camera, I don't see how that would infringe on one's privacy but could help in proving misdeeds.

As for :

may simply refuse to go to bath (you can't force them, after all) or can't bath because of some problem with their vital signs (checked everytime before going to bath)

Don't they do "bed-baths" in Japan ?.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wow how sad now days the old don't want to deal with the young but when they get to the drolling age they expect the young to care for them. Whatever happen to family care givers?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@FightingViking

In France there was a story about the son installing a "private" camera in his mother's room so that he was able to prove that she got regularly beaten and that, since her door was always left open, people just came in and helped themselves to her belongings. If a family member installs a camera, I don't see how that would infringe on one's privacy but could help in proving misdeeds.

In Japan there was also a similar story. But the article refers to security camera installed by the nursing home, which is different from a hidden camera installed by a family member. Anyway, I think the best way would be an agreement between both parties. If the family so desires, they could talk to the management and grant permission to install a hidden/security camera (or request permission to install one themselves). Oh, and doors are always open, unless the resident himself locks it (from the inside only). Staff has a master key, though. Doors should only be locked when the resident stays away for some time (to spend some time with his family or stay some days at the hospital, for example).

Don't they do "bed-baths" in Japan ?.

"Bed-baths" (I suppose you're talking about some wet towels to clean the resident's body on his bed) are not common at nursing homes, maybe at hospitals (don't know exactly). At nursing homes, only for people who can't move at all (and most of them can't even speak, so they can't refuse a bath), they use a special machine where the resident is laid down. It works similarly to a lift machine.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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