Report: Chronic Deficiencies in Nursing Home Care

A new report details the chronic deficiencies in nursing home care and its effect on the elderly and disabled Americans that live in these facilities. The report, published by the Long Term Care Community Coalition, details nursing home facilities that are woefully understaffed and failing to meet the needs of its residents. Because nursing homes receive funds by Medicare and Medicaid, they are largely regulated by the government. The report, consequently, mostly blames bureaucratic incompetence and under-funding for its failure to effectively monitor these facilities.

According to the report, the breadth and consequences of the government’s failure to take care of our elderly and disabled are vast. As the so-called “Baby Boomers” enter into their twilight years, an estimated 40 percent of Americans will at some point spend time in a nursing home that is subject to federal oversight.

A substantial portion of the problem is blamed on the so-called “yo-yo” phenomenon. This occurs when a nursing home or other assisted living facility is found to be out of compliance, but then only corrects the problem temporarily. In an effort to fix the problem, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), created the Special Focus Facility Program (SFF) which was meant to monitor facilities that have racked up multiple compliance violations. Because of under-staffing and insufficient funding and a requirement that states help fix the problem, the program has failed to fix the problem.

Indeed, the nursing homes that receive the most scathing reviews in the report were also most likely to be cited in the previous year’s report. The report notes that elderly abuse is not only a very common problem, stating that “nursing home abuse” yields over 176,000 results in Google, but also a persistent one, pointing to a 2001 news report by ABC titled “Elderly Abused at 1 in 3 Nursing Homes.” Despite the horrific nature of the problem and its routine exposure in the media, nursing home residents are still not treated with the dignity they deserve. The average nursing home has a whopping seven citations every year for failing to meet the minimum standards of care for its residents. Even worse, these citations do “not take into account the substandard care that State Agencies simply have failed to identify – a longstanding problem in nursing home care.”

As an example of this problem, look no further than pressure ulcers, or bedsores as they are more commonly called. Pressure ulcers are a largely preventable problem that still occur 86,000 times each year. Despite their preventability, the ease of which they can be diagnosed, and the mandatory reporting requirements that, at least by law, should bring them to the attention of regulators, a mere 3 percent are actually reported to the federal regulators each year. This is an unacceptable way to treat the most vulnerable members of our society, unfortunately, until the government chooses to step up its enforcement the problem is likely to continue.


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