The Upward Trend of Serious Nursing Home Abuse Incidents
A comprehensive study performed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reviewed all registered complaints against nursing homes in every state from 2011 to 2015. The Office of the Inspector General completed this study because of the suspected upward trend of nursing home abuse in U.S. facilities. Unfortunately, the investigation results confirmed what our federal government suspected; resident safety inside our nation’s long term care facilities is eroding. Even though the number of nursing home residents decreased, the number of resident safety complaints increased exponentially.
The Federal Government’s Findings on Nursing Home Abuse Nationwide
The results were troubling. These include a 33% increase across the US of reported complaints. Even more concerning was the level of seriousness of the complaints.
Overall, States received one-third more nursing home complaints in 2015 than in 2011. Each year, half of all nursing home complaints were at the level of seriousness that requires a prompt onsite investigation, and the most common allegations among these related to quality of care or treatment. – Office of Inspector General
Instances of ‘High Priority’ Complaints
The following qualify as examples of high prior complaints which required immediate follow up by the local state elder abuse agency:
- Residents being left in feces or urine for hours.
- Preventable falls resulting injury.
- Hospital admissions due to infection.
- Unexplained fractures.
- Development of nursing home pressure ulcers.
- Sexual abuse inside nursing homes.
- Subdural hematoma from trauma.
What is Required by the State Agency When Nursing Home Abuse is Reported?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid require prompt investigation for allegations that result in harm to residents:
States must conduct onsite investigations within certain timeframes for the two most serious levels of complaints — those that allege serious injury or harm to a nursing home resident and require a rapid response to address the complaint and ensure residents’ safety.
Nursing Home Abuse Investigations Vary Widely by State
Investigation into incidents of nursing home abuse falls on the individual state. Although the nation saw a sharp uptick in incidents of reported neglect and abuse, the way each state complied with federal investigation requirements varied widely. Just four states accounted for nearly 50% of the late investigations of high priority complaints.
Late Investigators of Nursing Home Abuse Complaints
- New York
Highest Reported Nursing Home Abuse Incidents by State
Increases in reported nursing home abuse were not seen across the board. In fact, 5 states were able to reduce their reported complaints while 11 states experienced increases in complaints by 50% of more. This highlights the fact that nursing home abuse is allowed to fester in states where favorable legislation protects bad facilities from punishment.
States with the largest reported incidents of nursing home complaints are:
- California nursing home complaints.
- Illinois nursing home complaints.
- Incidents involving Michigan nursing home facilities.
- New York nursing home abuse issues.
- Florida nursing home abuse.
Where Do I Report Nursing Home Abuse in my Area?
Follow this link to learn how to report nursing home abuse in your state.
What is the Solution to the Growing Nursing Home Abuse Problem in America?
It may sound simplistic, but the solution to fixing the problem is threefold.
- More resources for state surveyors to conduct surprise investigations in nursing homes before complaints are made.
- Stricter financial penalties for violations of nursing home residents rights.
- Financial incentives from CMS for facilities with low incident reports.
- Open access to the civil justice system for aggrieved families who lost a loved one due to nursing home abuse.
The logic behind these steps is obvious. Corporate chains own most of America’s nursing homes. Their goal is to make profits and minimize costs. If you financially punish badly behaving nursing homes, either through fines or jury verdicts, and reward those that provide good care, it will naturally improve corporate behavior.
Full Text of the Government Investigation into Systemic Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
A complete copy of the report can be found here.