​Nursing Home Improvements Needed to Protect Seniors

Nursing Home Abuse

Over 1.4 million nursing home residents are currently in over 15,500 nursing homes across the country. All of these facilities receive public funding through Medicare and Medicaid. There are billions of dollars funneling into these facilities. The result is substandard care and avoidable harm and deaths.

The last two years have highlighted how bad the facilities are since over 200,000 nursing home deaths resulted from COVID. When the Government Accountability Office inspected these facilities there were 82 percent of these nursing homes had infection issues and a lack of regular cleanliness procedures. The lack of care is unacceptable.

Another concern is private equity firms that are buying struggling nursing homes. The result is that these firms are making nursing homes even worse than before. Five percent of nursing homes are now under the control of private equity firms. The goal of a private equity firm is to put profits over people, and the ones who suffer are nursing home residents. An estimated 20,150 die due to private equity ownership.

The government and nursing home administrators must do something to keep nursing home residents safe. New federal guidelines created by a presidential executive order hope to protect seniors and other nursing home residents.

Current staffing requirement

Nursing Home Improvements Needed to Protect Seniors

Nursing homes and their administrators argue that a staffing requirement is impossible because of the worker shortage. The pandemic caused a reduction in nursing home staff of over 24,000 employees. Unfortunately, nursing home officials fear that the current shortage will cause nursing homes across the country to shut down when there is a federal mandate.

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act requires nursing homes to have enough staff for residents to have mental, physical, and psychological well-being. At the same time, the federal government created the act with the intent to ensure that nursing home residents live a fulfilled life. Unfortunately, vague language in the act only requires one registered nurse on duty for eight hours each day.

Some states have imposed staffing requirements, but they are much lower than what the federal government is proposing. A prime example is at the national level: Each resident must receive at least four hours of direct nursing care. States may require a minimum of 3.5 hours or less. These requirements are too small for nursing home residents to get the care they deserve.

Minimum staffing requirement

The majority of the issues plaguing nursing homes come from staffing shortages. With all of the harrowing accounts of nursing home residents not getting the care they need to have a comfortable life, the government is making changes to laws regarding staffing. The new minimum staffing requirement applies to nursing homes that receive funding through Medicaid and Medicare.

High turnover rates

Some states have adopted the proposed daily care requirements but have been unable to achieve them successfully. There has been an increase in turnovers in the nursing home industry, especially during the pandemic. One facility in Washington, D.C., reports their turnover rate increased triple from before the pandemic.

Two key reasons turnover rates are so high are burnout and competitive wages. Other industries can offer higher salaries and less stress, resulting in nursing assistants leaving or never going to an interview.

Most nursing homes rely on funding from Medicare and Medicaid, making it difficult to increase wages. Nursing home administrators request that with the minimum staffing requirement, there comes an increase in funding to attract more nursing assistants. The government’s response is to look into the current budget before providing additional funding. Nursing assistants will have options under the proposed bill.

There is a pathway to good-paying jobs through several efforts:

  • Nurse Aide Training Affordability: The costs of nursing training will lower, and there will be reimbursement for programs upon obtaining employment.
  • National Nursing Career Pathways Campaign: A nationwide program will be made to recruit, retain, train, and transition workers into care careers.
  • Support State Efforts to Improve Staffing and Workforce Sustainability: Additional pay and career development will now be available to nursing assistants.

How nursing home residents suffer?

Over the years, staffing shortages have led to many medical issues with residents. Studies show that residents suffer from bed sores, overprescribing of mediation, missing essential medications, and increased COVID-19 cases. The administration’s goal is to have federal minimum staffing requirements within the year. Nursing home residents deserve compassion and dignity.

For many homes with insufficient staff, dignity and compassion are on the back burner. Nursing home staff must focus on physical care when there is inadequate staff to help. Sadly, the residents won’t receive the emotional support they require when the staff is treating residents like an awful assembly line.

Holding nursing homes accountable.

Under the president’s order:

  • Each nursing home must prove adequately trained and have sufficient staff.
  • The public will get better information so they can assess which nursing home is suitable for their loved one
  • Nursing homes that perform poorly must improve their services or no longer receive taxpayer funding.

Under the order, several programs will work to hold nursing homes accountable for their negligence and prevent more tragedies from affecting residents.

The programs are:

  • Scrutiny on Poor Performing Homes: When a home is underperforming new efforts will work to address these concerns and improve care for residents. Nursing home facilities that continue to underperform will face other consequences, such as losing funding.
  • Funding for Inspection Activities: President Biden is asking Congress for $500 million in financing for CMS for adequate inspection practices in nursing homes across the country.
  • Increase Accountability for Chain Owners of Substandard Facilities: There will be a change in who owns and operates nursing home facilities and participates in Medicare and Medicaid agreements. It will also affect the owners of multiple facilities. It is common practice for one facility to underperform and others under the same ownership to stay open. The president’s order will cut this practice back since one underperforming facility means there are others.
  • Financial Penalties and Enforcement Sanctions: Enforcement on underperforming and bad-acting facilities will increase. The fines will increase for these facilities, so they must move quickly to improve or face other financial troubles.
  • Technical Assistance to Nursing Homes: All nursing homes will see an improvement in their technology and quality of care improvements. The efforts include an increase in training efforts and information sharing. All facilities will be informed and educated on new practices.

There are several initiatives to protect residents from abuse and neglect.

Aside from the minimum staffing requirement, there will also be efforts to:

  • Reduce resident room crowding: The goal of this provision is to increase single-occupancy rooms instead of the default three or more residents per room.
  • Reinforce safeguarding against unnecessary medications and treatments: Prescription errors and unnecessary prescriptions are a danger to all residents. CMS is launching a program to track diagnostic problems and lower the number of antipsychotic medications misused.
  • Strengthen the SNF-VBP program: This program focuses on funding for nursing homes with quality performance.

What is nursing home abuse?

Nursing home abuse is a violation of human rights. Nursing home residents entrust their safety and security to another person.

Abuse is when a caregiver continues to harm a resident over and over. When an elderly or disabled loved one enters a nursing home, they do so to live their lives comfortably and get the ongoing medical treatment they need. They can no longer do things for themselves and need additional help.

A nursing home resident does not expect they will face abuse or neglect while in their new home. Nursing home residents often struggle to express what is going on.

There are many different types of nursing home abuse, such as:

  • Financial and material (7 percent)
  • Physical abuse (27 percent)
  • Sexual abuse (7 percent)
  • Abandonment
  • Neglect (15 percent)
  • Loss of dignity and respect
  • Psychological and emotional (19 percent)

There are certain risk factors for nursing abuse and neglect.

The National Center on Elder Abuse finds:

  • Women account for 66 percent of abuse victims
  • Lower socioeconomic status impacts nursing home abuse
  • Past trauma can result in future victimization
  • Mental and physical health can make patients targets

While these risk factors exist, that does not indicate that your loved one will not be a victim. You must conduct proper research on the facility and the staff. If you see something amiss, you should document it for your records. Speak to your loved one about any suspicions of abuse. While they may not want to discuss the issue, they can show signs with their responses and body language indicating they are in danger.

When nursing home abuse is present, you need to follow some steps:

  • For immediate danger, call 911
  • File an abuse and neglect report with the police or the nursing home facility
  • Document everything you see
  • Request and keep all medical bills
  • Begin arranging for a transfer
  • Speak with a local nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer

Residents’ bill of rights

A nursing home bill of rights ensures the safety and well-being of nursing home residents.

Within the bill of rights, nursing home residents have the right to:

  • Private communications with others
  • Visitation between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm
  • Manage their finances
  • Share a private room with a spouse
  • A safe living environment free from abuse and neglect
  • Dignity and respect
  • Use of personal property
  • Religious services
  • Healthcare
  • Exercise and socialization

The bill of rights is extensive and does vary slightly in each state. Before entering a nursing home, you must review the bill of rights and keep it handy should anything seem amiss.

Signs of nursing home abuse

There are various ways that a person can suffer from nursing home abuse. It is essential to look for these signs and keep your loved one safe.

Here are some potential signs that can mean your loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect at the hands of nursing home staff:

  • Physical:
    • Weight loss
    • Bedsores
    • Bruises
    • Sunken eyes
    • Lack of hygiene
    • Open wounds
    • Missed medications
  • Behavioral:
    • Confusion
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Social withdraw
    • Fear or hesitation around specific staff
    • Disorientation
    • Discussing death or contemplating suicide
  • Financial:
    • Unexplained charges
    • Missing money
    • Missing valuables
    • Change in address
    • New accounts
    • Change in credit score
    • Caregiver’s name on accounts

There is also the possibility that your loved one can be the victim of abuse emotionally or sexually.

These are very heinous acts, and you will need to look for:

  • Stained or torn underwear
  • STDs
  • Genital infection
  • Refusing visitation
  • Bleeding and bruising in the genital region
  • Personality changes
  • Increase agitation
  • unresponsiveness

Legal options for nursing home abuse

When you find that your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you must take action immediately. You will need to hire a local nursing home abuse and neglect attorney near you who will investigate the negligent actions of the facility.

Some common negligence concerns are:

  • Not providing necessary medical care
  • Hiring unqualified or underqualified individuals
  • Not training staff appropriately
  • Inadequate security
  • Lack of quality of care
  • Unattended hazards and dangerous conditions
  • Lack of essential food, water, shelter, or medications

These are signs that the nursing home facility is not living up to the standard of care they owe to all residents. While you may think getting your loved one out is enough, it does not stop the abuse and neglect. The nursing home will continue to abuse and neglect residents and never be held accountable for their actions. A lawyer will hold the negligent parties responsible and obtain compensation for costs you incur for the harm the facility causes.

You can recover costs for:

  • Relocation services
  • Pain and suffering
  • Additional medical costs
  • Future medical expenses from a new or debilitating condition

There are several items to consider when it comes to compensation recovery. You must call a local nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer right away. You do not have to worry about the cost with a lawyer with a no-win, no-fee arrangement.