In 2018, one-third of all nursing homes in the country received a citation for violating federal standards on safely storing, preparing, and serving food to their residents. This makes food safety the third most common violation at nursing homes in the United States. The safety violations are not minor infractions, either. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 230 foodborne illness outbreaks at nursing homes between 1998 and 2017. These outbreaks resulted in 532 hospitalizations and 52 deaths, reports NBC News. Further, the news agency says this number is almost certainly undercounted since the federal agency relies on voluntary reporting by nursing homes – facilities who do not have a track record of following even mandatory reporting requirements for heinous crimes such as sexual abuse or theft.
Similar to stories of nursing home abuse, horror stories about foodborne illnesses abound. In California, one woman described moving her 98-year-old mother out of a nursing home after finding cockroaches in the kitchen. In Arkansas, one facility was cited six times over the course of two years – including one health inspection detailing “grimy kitchen appliances” and “staff with unwashed hands,” according to NBC News. Such occurrences are not uncommon, according to the news report many nursing homes with the worst problems are usually repeating offenders.
According to NBC News, food safety is especially imperiled for nursing homes owned by for-profit chains. For example, nursing homes owned by Genesis Healthcare, one of the largest nursing home corporations in the country, were 11 percent more likely to receive a citation for food safety violations in the last year. Speaking to NBC News, a representative for the nursing home chain said, “We are aware of some regulatory compliance issues and are working diligently to resolve any problems as quickly as possible.”
Despite the widespread problem with food safety and sanitation and the clear effects on immunocompromised nursing home residents, President Trump’s administration continues to deregulate the industry. In July, the Trump administration proposed lowering qualifications for directors of food and nutrition services, according to NBC News. While the administration says it is only eliminating requirements that are “unnecessary, obsolete or excessively burdensome,” elder care advocates strongly disagree. “They’re clearly weakening the standards regarding food service and the safety of food handling,” says Richard Mollot, executive director of the New York nonprofit Long Term Care Community Coalition. Mollot points to a 2016 study out of Colorado which found that food safety violations were 30 times more likely in a nursing home cafeteria than a restaurant. If these exact problems were found in restaurants, “There would be a public outcry to get those restaurants closed. And they would be closed because nobody would go there again,” said a representative of Families for Better Care.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.