United States Senators recently heard horrific tales about abuse and sexual assault in nursing homes across the country. According to CNN, The “US Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to discuss reports of abuse and neglect in some nursing homes nationwide.” What caught lawmakers’ attention and scorn was that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services had given a specific facility the highest possible ranking even though there were previous reports of abuse.
When pressed on what CMS was doing to protect nursing home residents, a representative from CMS stated, “[w]e do have expectations for nursing facilities for having the appropriate staffing for their patient population, and we survey for that on a regular basis.” According to the article, Senator Bob Menendez responded, “I think there’s a gulf between the expectations and the reality in several of these instances and we look forward to working with you to bridge the gulf.”
As one of the witnesses to the hearing stated, nursing home residents are the “most vulnerable people in our society.” This is absolutely true. In our practice we regularly see where nursing homes don’t just fall short of the mark, but do not appear to even try and aim for the mark. When reviewing cases we see that many of the nurses and physicians who work at nursing homes are trying their best, but systematic breakdowns at the facility lead to neglect and opportunities for abuse.
For those who are looking at potential nursing homes, CMS does provide detailed information about facilities through a useful search engine. Other sources are available for comparing and assessing nursing home facilities, but may be cumbersome to use and/or may contain data that is not entirely accurate.
By searching for a facility you can learn about what the facility’s health inspection, staff, and quality measures ratings are. However, keep in mind that the admonition from the senators referenced in the article. Sometimes even CMS falls short of the mark. Therefore, always visit a potential nursing home in person. Ask questions. And always remember that as a nursing home resident, you have rights.