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Nursing Homes: Change of Ownership Can Be a Red Flag; Signify Problems

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A 2016 Harvard University study found that nursing homes across America have been changing ownership at an alarming rate. On average, 1,500 nursing facilities were sold to a different corporation per year between 1993 and 2010. While change of ownership is not believed to directly cause turmoil and poor care, the study concluded that many nursing homes that already have a history of deficiencies and violations are more likely to be sold and rebranded.

David Grabowski, lead researcher and health care policy professor at Harvard Medical School, pointed out that nursing homes with a history of consistent, uniform ownership typically have fewer citations from inspectors, unlike their lower-quality counterparts, which more often have mergers, acquisitions or changes of ownership on their record.

More often than not, corporate chains are involved in the acquisition of failing health care facilities.

Frequently, when nursing homes change hands, staff turnover and fresh leadership are common. For residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s, the disturbance in what they are familiar with can cause additional stress, Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus at the University of California San Francisco, told The Boston Globe.

The change of ownership trend we are now seeing across the U.S. is not new. Grabowski, first author on a 2008 study entitled “Ownership Conversions and Nursing Home Performance” found that “The annual rate of nursing home conversions almost tripled between 1994 and 2004.”

While some argue that frequent ownership change is not a fair measure to rate the quality of a facility, you, as the consumer, have a right to ask questions and discern for yourself the implications anytime new ownership is brought aboard.

Nursing Home Compare, a website designed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, provides reviews of individual nursing homes so potential residents or family members of residents can see how local nursing homes compare. However, even websites like these often fail to provide sufficient information that detail if the facility was ever sold or changed hands.

If you or a loved one is in a nursing facility that has recently changed ownership, it does not mean the quality of care will automatically plummet, nor will it necessarily improve.

Unfortunately, the Harvard study found no supporting evidence to suggest quality of care improves after ownership changes. Rather, it noted that the problems faced prior to the transaction were likely to persist afterwards as well.

Though not the case for every nursing home, change of ownership can in some instances be a sign of underlying issues, including neglect, health and safety violations, and more frequent citations overall at a particular facility.

In our years of experience working alongside clients at Jehl Law Group, we have seen the recurrent pattern of facility acquisition and the effects it can have on residents.

If you or a loved one has been neglected, abused, or in any way negatively affected at a nursing home, please contact us for a free consultation. We have years of experience in successfully addressing nursing home injustices and fighting for our clients.