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Data to Help Make Informed Decisions About Nursing Homes in MA

The decision to place an elderly loved one in an unfamiliar setting, such as a nursing home or other skilled care facility, is never easy. Unless you have had direct experience with nursing homes, it is difficult to know what to expect. It is also challenging to weed through the varying reports associated with nursing homes and their standard of care.

To help people with this process, Medicare began rating nursing for quality homes in 2008. In conjunction with these ratings, Medicare suggests visiting the nursing homes you are considering. This will allow you to review them for appropriate living spaces, staff interaction, food choices, safety measures, available activities and the level of patient care.

Nursing Home Numbers

Surprisingly, the availability of nursing homes and beds in the United States has decreased over the last decade. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2000 there were close to 17,000 homes and around 1.8 million beds from which to choose. This fell to just under 16,000 homes and upwards of 1.7 million beds in 2008. This trend also occurred in Massachusetts, which the CDC shows has declined from just over 500 facilities and 56,000 beds in 2000 to around 400 facilities and 50,000 beds in 2008.

The number of senior citizens living in nursing homes is constantly shifting, which makes gathering accurate and current data nearly impossible. The U.S. Census numbers from two years ago indicated that there may be approximately 4 million people, which is close to 5 percent of the population, residing in nursing homes at any given time. Sources say this amounts to about a 1 in 4 chance that an elderly person will have to enter a nursing home. It is common for many families to experience the search for long-term care, so quality ratings may be helpful initially.

Medicare Quality Ratings

Medicare began rating nursing homes in order to give families a standard with which to compare the quality of nursing homes in both their local areas and around the nation. Medicare uses a five-star quality rating system and assigns values based on the key areas of health inspections and complaint investigations, staffing of registered nurses and quality of care measures. An overall rating is also established for all reviewed nursing homes. 

Last year’s nursing home ratings were recently published. Based on the data reported by Medicare, 1 in 5 of the nearly 16,000 nursing homes operating in the U.S. scored poorly in their overall quality ratings. Upwards of 250,000 residents currently live in these low-quality nursing homes, of which most are for-profit care facilities. Due to the insufficient care in these nursing homes, elderly residents may be particularly in danger of some form of abuse or negligence.

Abuse Awareness

Unfortunately, some nursing home staff may manipulate, abuse or neglect defenseless elderly patients in their care. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) defines elder abuse as any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. This poor treatment could include physical, emotional or sexual abuse as well as exploitation, neglect or abandonment.

According to the Elder Abuse Daily publication, there are almost 6 million cases of abuse against senior citizens every year. Over 100,000 reports of elder abuse occur per year in Massachusetts. If you have a loved one who resides in a nursing home, you should continually be on the lookout for evidence of mistreatment.

The presence of bodily harm, such as bruises or broken bones, may be signs of physical abuse, whereas a change in attitude or withdrawal from voluntary participation in activities may provide proof of emotional abuse. If a resident has bedsores, indications of poor hygiene or experiences extreme weight loss, this could certify a pattern of neglect or abandonment. Checking for sexual abuse and financial exploitation may be difficult, but it is important to monitor elderly patients or family members for all potential forms of abuse.

Legal Assistance

Nursing homes are sometimes a necessary reality for aged persons in the U.S. when they need more specialized medical care than can be provided at home. Whether someone chooses to enter a skilled care facility voluntarily or out of necessity, he or she deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in a safe and comfortable environment.

Federal regulations mandate that all nursing homes write and maintain a Nursing Residents’ Bill of Rights. This document should outline resident rights and be accessible to every resident or their family members upon request.

If you suspect any abuse or other mistreatment in a nursing home, or you experienced neglect or other forms of abuse during your stay in a skilled care facility, be sure to request and review a Nursing Residents’ Bill of Rights and immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Elderly victims deserve a fair settlement for their injuries and nursing homes must be held accountable for mistreating aged family members.

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