Finding the right nursing home for a family member or loved one is a daunting but critical task. Although many nursing homes deliver quality care, the unfortunate reality is that some do not.
For example, nursing home investigators in Kentucky recently found more than 530 deficiencies in the first quarter alone. Although the national average for nursing home deficiencies is around 8 violations per facility, some Kentucky facilities were operating with 20 or more deficiencies under a single roof! Our team of experienced nursing home attorneys understand that one deficiency is one too many when it comes to caring for some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Since 1997, nursing home regulatory boards have tried to improve the nursing home environment. According to the Atlantic, the prevalent theme of nursing home improvements is a ‘culture change’ away from institutionalized care models to more personalized treatment. Nursing homes often receive serious criticism for operating like robotic asylums. The culture change movement seeks to circumvent the asylum-like environment by implementing changes in amenities, activities, and care patterns.
Amenity changes could take the form of a communal kitchenette area where residents prepare their own snacks, or garden and plant space residents can tend to. Proposed activity changes include bringing animal visitors into the home to interact with residents, or inviting local children to volunteer in the home. While these sorts of changes would not directly impact the available medical care, they could improve the overall nursing home environment by making the homes more welcoming and comfortable.
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Federal surveys about the quality of care are also being revamped to more accurately assess care facilities and methods. In 2011, changes to the survey process shifted the focus from more mechanical elements, such as the hours in which meals are served, to more holistic considerations such as the nutritional well-being of residents. Despite positive modifications to the survey methods, similar changed have not been made to the actual regulatory rules that control the facilities.
According to the Atlantic, an additional barrier to care improvements includes inaccuracies and inconsistencies between the way different surveyors analyze home conditions. Contradictory messages about which standards control can leave nursing care employees frustrated, confused, and more likely to underperform. In order to adequately address care issues in nursing homes it is essential that the government do a better job of training surveyors to consistently spot and resolve deficiencies.
Inconsistencies between deficiencies and the ability for individuals to recover money for poor care is another emerging legal issue. On May 18, 2012, a Colorado jury recommended a $3.2 million award for the family of a man who potentially died due to negligent nursing home care. The man had at least one large bedsore that was not treated until family members repeatedly pestered the staff and eventually removed the man to a hospital. During an evaluation of the patient’s care in late 2010 the home reported no flaws in treatment. However, just months later, the home was hit with 27 deficiencies by state inspectors. These shocking violations raised serious doubt about the victim’s true cause of death.
If you or a loved one is injured due to deficient care at a nursing home or long-term care facility, it is important to contact an experienced elder law attorney immediately. Nursing homes need to be held responsible for negligent care in order to prevent further tragedies.