The federal government unveiled a new tool last month for families to see if a nursing home facility was recently accused of abuse. The government-run Nursing Home Compare website, which aggregates nursing home safety information from across the country, will now flag nursing homes which have credible allegations of abuse reported to authorities in the last 12 months. A “small icon” of a “red circle with a white hand inside” will show up next to the name of the nursing home facility whenever it is searched for on the government website.
Nursing home advocates say the change is minor but long overdue. Studies show that as many as one in 20 nursing home patients are abused and the problem is rarely reported. Already, more than 5 percent of the nursing homes have been branded with the icon warning of abuse allegations, representing facilities with 1.4 million residents. Families who want more information on the allegations of nursing home abuse can look at the entries on inspection reports. The Wall Street Journal details one example where two wheelchair-bound residents with dementia got into a fight and staffers at the Pennsylvania nursing home chose not to intervene. The fight ended when a 95-year-old man died. Another example reported by the national newspaper involves a Maryland nursing home where health inspectors found maggots in the face wound of a dying cancer patient. Both facilities will now have red warning icons next to their name on the government website.