Articles Posted in Nursing Home Violations

Nursing home residents may need family members or advocates to report cases of elder abuse. According to The National Elder Abuse Incident Study, only 20 percent of neglect, exploitation, abuse or self-neglect is reported to state authorities. The nonprofit agency which conducted this study, The Center for Elder Abuse, said that an estimated 2.5 million cases of elder abuse occurred at nursing homes across the country in just the last year. This means that 2 million nursing home abuse cases go unreported and unpunished. This eye-wateringly high number indicates a substantial problem on its own but considering the aging population in America, unreported elder abuse could increase to even higher levels.

While victims can be any age, race, gender, or with any kind of diagnosis, the nonprofit elder care group said that common characteristics of nursing home abuse victims include anyone over the age of 80, elderly women, people with cognitive impairments, and people who are physically or psychologically aggressive. Nursing homes are the most common place for unreported elder abuse, although adult day care centers and hospitals are common locations for this horrific crime, too.

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The federal government fined a New Jersey nursing home for $600k after a deadly adenovirus outbreak killed 11 children and infected 37 other residents, according to NJ.com. The nursing home, Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, is a long-term care facility in northern New Jersey with senior citizens and children who require around-the-clock care and monitoring. According to federal regulators, insufficient safety protocols led to the deadly outbreak and permitted its rapid spread across the assisted living facility.

In a scathing report released last week, the federal government cited numerous safety violations that enabled the rapid spread of the virus. The protocols at the retirement home were so insufficient that medical staff did not even realize an outbreak was occurring until the fourth child died. The federal report details violations including a lack of infection control plan, a “void of leadership,” and an off-site medical director who was so disengaged she only checked on the facility weekly.

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Victims of nursing home abuse and industry stakeholders gathered in Washington this month for a Senate hearing on the nursing home industry. In addition to hearing testimony from the families of nursing home abuse, the federal legislators sounded the alarm over a looming fight over Medicaid funding. According to Skilled Nursing News, the Trump administration will propose its plans to convert Medicaid funding into a “block-grant model.”

According to proponents of the new model of funding, Medicaid spending has spiraled out-of-control and the federal health insurance scheme is no longer sustainable. Instead of continuing with the current open-ended model, the federal government will fund a predetermined amount each year for a state’s Medicaid program. The amount will likely depend on the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in the state, among other factors. The idea for overhauling Medicaid’s open-ended funding model into a block grant system has been favored by Republicans for a long time and finally reached a fever-pitch during the Affordable Care debate in 2017.

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In an exhaustive report by Care.com on the current state of America’s nursing home industry, the well-researched guide compiles data from various private studies, data published by the government, and even included a recent analysis of approximately 1,000 Medicare patients. While the detailed and illuminating guide to elder care facilities is worth reading in full, these are the highlights:

  • The Scope of the Nursing Home Industry. According to the report, there are 1.7 million nursing home beds in America and 79 percent of these are occupied each day. Nursing home residents receive an average of four hours of personalized care each day. Of these four hours, only 45 minutes are spent with a registered nurse each day.
  • Nursing Home Visitors. A nursing home resident can expect six visits from their relatives each month and spend an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes each visit. A majority – 55 percent – of nursing home patients wish their family would visit them more frequently. Nursing home patients satisfied with their family’s visitation habits report an average of nine visits each month. Apparently, family members feel guilty about their infrequent visiting habits – 14 percent described feeling “extremely guilty” and 21 percent felt “moderately guilty” for rarely visiting their loved one.

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The Trump Administrations deregulation effort has led to decreased oversight across the country’s nursing home industry. According to The Washington Post, President Trump’s deregulation agenda has indiscriminately removed “essential protections for vulnerable Americans.” Citing the Trump administration’s popular boast of removing 22 regulations for every single regulation added, the newspaper understandably questions the necessity of these regulations and the consequences of their removal.

Sadly, the nursing home industry has never been a priority for many Presidential administrations. Despite the highly regulated nature of the industry, nursing homes have often escaped the scrutiny lodged at hospitals and other healthcare providers. Late in his second term, President Barack Obama attempted to change that and directed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to aggressively pursue nursing homes flouting the law. Beginning in 2014, nursing home violations would not result in a one-time fine. Instead, the nursing home would be fined every single day until the violation was rectified. By 2016, over two-thirds of nursing home violations resulted in a per-day fine. Unfortunately, the Trump administration reversed this change – which was viewed by elder care advocates as broadly effective and necessary.

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State prosecutors charged seven nursing home employees with involuntary manslaughter after a patient died from a bedsore in 2017. The nursing home employees, which includes one nurse, are collectively charged with 37 crimes for their gross mistreatment and neglect of two nursing home patients during their time working at Whetstone Gardens and Care Center in Ohio. Announcing the charges, Attorney General Dave Yost says, “Evidence shows these nurses forced the victims to endure awful mistreatment and then lied about it.”

Yost says first patient “literally rotted to death” after developing a preventable bedsore or “pressure injury” in 2017. The patient, who entered the facility on a short-term basis, developed several bedsores after nursing staff failed to move the patient every few hours. Once the bedsores developed, the staff continued to ignore the nursing home resident and failed to treat the sores, also called pressure injuries or ulcers. Within weeks of developing the bedsore, the patient’s bedsores became infected with gangrene. The nursing home resident passed away just weeks later after the staffers at the nursing home failed to take “any medically appropriate steps.”

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced it will launch a ‘comprehensive review’ of nursing home regulations across the country. According to Health Leaders Media, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced the new initiative last week in response to mounting criticism by states and federal legislators. Administrator Verma said the government agency will seek $45 million in additional funding from Congress for its review.

CMS says the review will focus on several primary areas. First, CMS will work with state agencies across the country to strengthen oversight of the country’s nursing homes. According to CMS, federal and state agencies will work together to ensure CMS health and safety requirements are being followed and ever nursing home is inspected at least once a year. Second, the federal agency plans to increase enforcement of nursing homes by, according to Administrator Verma, “developing new ways to root out bad actors and repeat offenders.” Administrator Verma says nursing homes with insufficient nursing staff will be targeted will begin receiving more “unannounced inspections” to encourage compliance. Finally, nursing homes will now be more severely penalized for poor patient outcomes and less severely penalized for failing to follow CMS protocols. In addition to improving outcomes for current nursing home patients, the focus on patient outcomes will also be more helpful to prospective nursing home residents by providing a more meaningful metric to judge nursing homes.

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The Department of Veteran Affairs released its first report on the status of its nursing homes this month and the results show widespread neglect and abuse at the government-run facilities, perhaps even worse than the well-documented problems seen in its private-care counterpart. The federal government is responsible for caring for the country’s 40,000 veterans and, according to its own report, is doing a poor job. The report analyzed 99 VA nursing homes across the country and reported the findings of surprise inspections conducted by outside contractors. The VA spokesperson said that releasing the report in its entirety is part of a new push by the agency for transparency and accountability.

The findings of the report are daunting. Eleven of the 99 nursing homes were so unsafe that veteran safety was in “immediate jeopardy.” More than half of the nursing homes (52) were deficient enough to cause “actual harm” to their veteran residents. “That is really bad. It’s really bad,” Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nursing home advocacy nonprofit told USA Today.

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New York’s Department of Health appears unable to adequately monitor the nursing homes across the state and hold poor performers accountable. Elder care advocates say the state agency must reform to protect senior citizens from poor care and nursing home abuse. Thankfully, legislators in Albany appear to finally be listening.

According to The Buffalo News, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes is co-sponsoring a bill regulating the number of nurses at each assisted care facility in the state. The appropriately named Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act would mandate that each nursing home have RNs (registered nurses) and that practical nurses and CNAs (certified nursing assistants) spend a minimum of 291 minutes with each resident. According to federal data, nursing staff levels are the largest indicator of whether a nursing home is providing quality care to its residents. Unfortunately, the same federal data shows that most nursing homes are grossly deficient when it comes to staffing. According to a study released in January 2019, only 7.5 percent of nursing homes across the state currently satisfy the requirements laid out in the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act.

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Government regulators and lawmakers appear finally ready to do something about the widespread use of antipsychotics at nursing homes. These powerful drugs are often prescribed to residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia by nursing homes hoping to sedate them. Not only are these drugs not an approved treatment for these conditions, but antipsychotic drugs also have a range of serious side effects and drug interactions. In the elderly, antipsychotic medications substantially increase the risk of falls. Sadly, the practice of prescribing dangerous, unnecessary antipsychotic medication is widespread in the nursing home industry. The federal government reports that approximately 16 percent of nursing home residents take antipsychotics.

Thankfully, the government appears ready to tackle widespread nursing home abuse. In a letter to US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the government agency responsible for regulating nursing homes, Rep. Richard Neil excoriates the nursing home industry’s illegal prescribing habits and the government agency for inadequate enforcement. Rep. Neil described instances of nursing homes who “falsified diagnosis” and failed to attain informed consent, all for the purpose of sedating a patient with unnecessary antipsychotics. The Democrat then sharply criticized CMS saying that “nursing facilities are getting away with this practice.” According to Rep. Neil, nursing homes are “neither being cited nor penalized.”

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