Senior citizens fear going to a nursing home and loss of independence more than death, according to a new study, “Aging in Place in America”. One major reason that nursing homes have lost their quality of care is due to acquisitions by large Wall Street investment companies and private equity firms. Nursing homes are now for-profit corporations and that means less staffing and therefore, less care for the elderly.
One tragic example of nursing care abuse happened in Escondido, California. at the Palomar
Heights Care Center. On Thanksgiving morning, an elderly patient just walked out of the facility and was struck by a car. To make matters worse, she was wearing an alert bracelet that lets the staff know that she had left the building. The staff’s only explanation was that they were distracted with another resident at the time. Staffing issues are the number one problem in most nursing homes.
In addition to this year’s violations, last year this same home was fined $100,000 for leaving a patient alone, connected to oxygen, smoking a cigarette. The patient burned for over 6 minutes and eventually died as a result of his burns. Under previous ownership, the State of California’s Attorney General conducted a sting operation and arrested 12 of their staff for elder abuse. If you suspect any problems with a nursing home, please contact a personal injury attorney right away.
These offenses seem unbelievable and fortunately, most violations are relatively minor compared to these offenses. In fact, around 30% of the nation’s nursing homes have some sort of deficiency and about 1 in 20 actually have abuse. But how can you make sure your loved ones are being cared for? One controversial solution is the use of web or video cameras. They have been dubbed the “granny cam” and are legal if you advise the nursing home that you are installing this device. Another solution to finding information is to do some Internet research. It just takes some time and looking through some public documents, but it is worth some peace of mind to find a proper home for your loved one.
Nationwide resources are a great place to begin. Start with www.medicare.gov . On the Medicare site, you can search nursing homes by name, city, zip, state or geographical region. In addition, you can compare several homes, side by side, for any violation and staffing numbers. Finally, once you decided on a home you may access detailed health and fire inspection reports on these facilities.
For overviews of state and federal regulations, laws and patient rights, visit www.nursinghomealert.com. This website will educate you as to the laws that nursing homes must be in compliance with. They also have tips for evaluating the difference between neglect and abuse. As always, clear lines of communication with the facility are most important when you suspect something.
Nursing homes vary from state to state, but here in California we have more than 110,000 seniors and people with disabilities depending on nursing home care. Fortunately for them, The Medi-Cal Long Term Care Reimbursement Act (AB1629) has been in place since late 2005. This bill provides improved methods of funding to keep homes accountability for things such as, better nutrition, higher wages to reduce turnover, upgrade facilities and provide a better overall standard of care.
In an audit of California nursing homes this year, still over 76% had staffing “fix-it” notices for failing to meet the staffing standard. This is still one of the biggest areas needed to improve California’s nursing homes. Although the legislation was passed to provide total reimbursement, the money still isn’t getting to the health facilities due to shortfalls in the current budget. Currently the Department of Health is seeking an emergency regulation to help these facilities.
For now, it is Buyer beware and if you need an attorney, contact us at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, 888 752-7474.