Residents’ Top 5 Complaints About Nursing Homes: #1

Complaint #1: No One Coming When the Call Bell is Pressed

I’ve worked on units where the moment the call bell goes off, the charge nurse immediately and calmly asks an aide to check on the room. The bell goes off, someone arrives. Simple customer service. This leads to a unit full of residents who feel confident their needs will be addressed in a timely fashion, and are therefore far less anxious. Staff training is a good way to change the nursing home culture on this issue, but each worker can take it upon themselves to make it their own personal policy even if the nursing home as a whole isn’t making it a priority.

[First post in a biweekly series]

4 thoughts on “Residents’ Top 5 Complaints About Nursing Homes: #1”

  1. Dr. El,

    When my mom was in a nursing home, her number one complaint was no one answering the call bell. I asked the Director of Nursing of the facility what she felt an acceptable time was for her staff to respond, she stated 10 to 15 minutes. I have worked in a nursing home for twenty-five years, and was appalled at the thought of waiting so long. Out of curiousity, I asked the DNS where I worked what she considered appropriate, she felt that 2 – 3 minutes to respond to the call bell, but perhaps it may take 5 to 10 minutes before someone would be available to address the issue at hand. She did admit though that in actuality sometimes people do have to wait longer. Her response was honest and realistic. I think the administration sets the tone, if it's not a priority for the "boss", it certainly isn't going to a priority for the staff.

  2. Sue, the call bell is a source of anxiety for the residents because it's their life line. While most calls are not urgent, residents are aware that their request could have been an emergency and the amount of time it takes for staff members to respond could have been crucial to their well-being. When residents become annoyed or anxious about a slow response, it's generally because of this underlying dependency on the staff, literally for their lives.

    Reducing this anxiety by responding promptly to every call bell makes for calmer residents and a more relaxed unit. While it would be best if the Director of Nursing set the tone, the charge nurses or nursing supervisors can do it on their floors, and the CNAs can do it for their people. Hopefully, their modeling of appropriate behavior will catch on to the rest of the facility.

  3. I wish there were also a way for administration to help staff with “call bell abuse”! We have residents who ring the call bell over 30 times a shift. That takes away from time that could be used with a resident who has a serious problem or needs to use bathroom.
    They will ring for us to hand them a drink, move their leg, talk to them, ask for pain pills when they had one 15 minutes ago, shut their tv’s ….all things they are capible of doing themselves.
    Where I work it’s not the hospice or dementia residents who do all the ringing it’s the people who are there for knee or hip surgery. They ask for food and drinks all night plus their pillows fluffed. They think they are staying at a hotel not a nursing home.

    • Tired CNA, I hear you! I do think there are ways CNAs and other staff members can improve the situation with more demanding residents. I could go into a whole story here — and actually, I think I will. I’m going to write a post on this and put it up in the next day or so. Thanks for bringing up the issue, and please check back or sign up for the blog feed.


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