"Faces of Neglect" from Consumer
Voice tells real stories of people
abused in nursing homes.
Incidents of severe abuse in nursing homes have a tragic precedent in this country. A 2001 congressional investigation found that 30 percent of more than 17,000 nursing homes were cited for abuses between 1999 and 2001. Furthermore, abuse seems to be on the rise: “immediate jeopardy” violations likely to result in serious injury or death in nursing homes rose 22 percent from 2000 to 2008.
While mistreatment can occur in any nursing home, statistics indicate that the odds jump in those run for profit (two-thirds of our nation’s nursing homes). A 2001 study of 13,693 long-term care facilities by the University of California, San Francisco, found that deficiencies per home were 46.5 percent higher in investor-owned facilities versus non-profits. There are also 32 percent fewer nurses in for-profit facilities. (Download report.) Standing Up for Seniors, a study from the American Association for Justice, chronicles several cases of abuse, including a 2004 investigation by the Detroit News that found that 14,000 elderly residents died of dehydration and malnutrition over a four-year period. (Download report.)
Unfortunately, these statistics taint the majority of nursing homes that provide quality care and are staffed by truly dedicated and skilled people. But clearly the possibility of neglect and abuse exists, so you should be aware of ways to detect abuse or avoid bad facilities altogether.
Steps to Take When Comparing Nursing Homes
Resist pressure from hospital discharge planners eager to place an elderly patient in a nursing home and consider the alternatives first. Other options include home care, assisted living facilities, subsidized senior housing, board and care homes, etc. For a comprehensive summary of your options, visit Alternatives to Nursing Home Care from Medicare.gov. If a nursing home is still the right choice, here are a few guidelines:
1) Check out ratings: Compare the quality of the nursing homes you are considering by doing a little homework. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) offers a five-star quality rating system based on health inspections, staffing rates and several other quality assessment measures. Also try to find nursing homes that are located near family members. For more detail, download this how-to guide from Medicare.gov and this tear-out checklist.
2) Visit facilities: Now for the legwork: visit a few facilities and see them for yourself. Talking to residents and other family members can give you a good feel for the care quality. Note if they seem at ease and are open and willing to discuss their experiences in the home. Watching staff interaction can also speak volumes about the nature of a nursing facility. And check on staff turnover, including the facility administrator. Excessive turnover could mean the nursing home is in turmoil.
3) Forced arbitration: Many nursing homes now include forced arbitration clauses in admission contracts, thus protecting themselves from accountability in an open court of law. Often the provider picks the arbitration company and sets the rules of the arbitration, heavily favoring the provider. Read contracts carefully and resist a mandatory arbitration clause, or look for another facility.
Options for Fighting Abuse and Neglect
It is unlawful to abuse or neglect a nursing home resident. If you believe anyone in a nursing home is being abused, document everything in writing with as much detail as possible. Then call and send copies of your report to the administrator, director of nursing and social worker at the nursing home, state or local ombudsmen, local law enforcement, the state agency responsible for surveying nursing homes and local citizen advocacy groups. For a complete listing of officials near you, visit this map from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and download their guide Abuse & Neglect.
You may also have legal recourse against the nursing home or others in civil court. Our nation's seniors and their families, along with their attorneys, have played a critical role in uncovering abuse and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and are often the most effective means to force corporate nursing homes to fix problems. Contact us if you would like to learn more about your legal options in a nursing home abuse or neglect case.