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Worst Nursing Homes Named on Federal Website

Apr 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Families in need of nursing care for a loved one will now have easier access to a list of the most troubled nursing homes in the country, thanks new information being added to a nursing home website developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.   Consumer groups are cheering the move, and say that the site - Nursing Home Compare - is now the most complete national site available for finding specifics on nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Nursing home abuse is one of the most serious problems facing this country’s elderly.  Though it concedes that the true number is probably much higher, The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates at least one in 20 nursing home patients has been the victim of abuse. According to the National Center’s study, 57% of nurses’ aides working in long-term care facilities admitted to having witnessed, and even participating in, acts of abuse. The report sites systemic problems within the nursing home industry, like inadequate pay for workers and chronic understaffing, as contributing to the epidemic of abuse. There are nearly 1.4 million Americans living in nursing homes right now, and that number is expected to more than double in the next decade. As it does, advocates for the elderly and disabled fear that incidences of abuse will continue to climb as well.

Finding out whether or not a nursing home has been cited for violations can be a daunting task for consumers.  But the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has been working to make the task easier.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Nursing Home Compare primarily offers summarized information from inspections performed by state agencies, as well as data the nursing homes must compile and submit to regulators about residents. The site, which is updated monthly, has made additions in the past few years, including information about facilities' sprinkler systems and whether the homes provide certain vaccinations.  Some of the most helpful information on the site involves pain management, pressure sores and the use of physical restraints.  

Now, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services is adding the identities of so-called Special Focus Facilities -- nursing homes that rank in the worst 5% to 10% for inspection results in a given state - to the Nursing Home Compare database.   These homes are selected for stepped-up scrutiny by regulators. The list, which was made public earlier but not integrated in the searchable database, typically includes around 130 facilities, out of approximately 16,000 nursing homes in the U.S

According to The Journal, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began making some of the information about troubled nursing homes public last fall, amid a push by Sens. Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican. The senators are sponsoring a bill that would reveal additional data about nursing homes.

While Nursing Home Compare is an excellent tool for consumer looking for nursing homes, experts are quick to remind that nothing can replace an actual visit for evaluating a facility. In-person observations are the best way to determine if a nursing home is at risk of becoming a neglectful or abusive environment.


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