We’ve been following the widespread issue of nursing home abuse for some time. Last year, the former Bush administration finally published the names of 131 of the nation’s worst nursing homes. Now, says the Wall Street Journal, the federal government is increasing efforts to improve nursing home care by implementing an evaluative Web-based tool.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will initiate the pilot program this summer to track how cash incentives to nursing homes improve care, specifically in nurse staffing and preventable hospitalizations, said the Journal. The agency also flags those listed as the worst, which has increased to about 135, on the Web site. The most problematic facilities are labeled as “Special Focus Facilities,” noted the Journal.
In a harrowing example of the widespread problem of elder abuse and negligence, last year, the family of a deceased Norwich, Connecticut man filed what is believed to be the first wrongful death lawsuit against officials at Connecticut’s largest nursing home chain: Haven Healthcare. The suit claimed that misappropriation of Haven funds by Chief Executive Officer Raymond Termini contributed to “deplorable conditions.” The family also sought permission to sue the state departments of public health and social services, and Nancy Shaffer, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, for failing to investigate and act on complaints lodged by the family.
The deceased family member was a patient at Haven homes for over two years when he was rushed to a hospital after his wife found him in excruciating pain and his legs gangrenous and in early rigor mortis, allegedly due to an untreated and infected pressure sore on his hip and physical restraints that immobilized him. The man died two days later.
There are roughly 16,400 nursing homes nationwide and taxpayers spend about $72.5 billion annually to subsidize nursing home care. Late last year the CMS began ranking nursing homes “based on government inspection results, staffing data, and quality measures” via the “Nursing Home Compare” system, which is available at medicare.gov/NHCompare, said the Journal.
“We are certainly taking assertive steps to make sure nursing-home residents are adequately protected and to stimulate improvement on the part of various providers,” said Thomas Hamilton, CMS’s survey and certification group’s director, quoted the Journal.
The Journal also pointed out that approximately three million Americans require nursing-home care annually. A costly expense, many elderly and disabled patients must pay for such care themselves because they earn too much to qualify or simply don’t qualify for the benefit. If covered, benefits are limited—up to a mere 100 days following a minimum of three-day hospitalization with a doctor ordering care for the same reason as the hospitalization and for specific treatments, such as physical therapy, said the Journal citing the elder care advocacy group the AARP. After 20 days of full benefits, the patient must pay $133.50 daily, and then the full day’s cost each day after the first 100 days, noted the Journal.
When reviewing the Web site, the Journal warns consumers to conduct additional research, such as in-facility visits, speaking to other residents, data review, and state and other source review. Advocacy group, the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, warns some nursing home-provided data may contain errors and that consumers should check regularly for monthly updates, said the Journal.