If someone you know and love is in a nursing home, you probably find yourself wondering if they are getting the care and treatment they need and deserve. A government report was released in February of this year about the lack of safety for Medicare patients in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. The report was undertaken by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s office. Doctors reviewed records of randomly selected patients from more than 600 facilities. The findings were unbelievable. Roughly, one out of every three residents, in the facilities examined, suffered either a medication error, an infection or some other harm.
It’s no wonder why the thought of someone we love being admitted to a nursing home causes anxiety. The report makes clear the fact that a lot of nursing homes are not safe. For those without medical knowledge for the proper treatment and rehabilitation of a loved one, admitting a loved one to a nursing home can be scary. It can be difficult to know when something isn’t right, when nursing home staff tells you something contrary to your own observation and intuition about your loved ones’ needs. However, this report takes a look at the very heart of the issue – medical treatment – by experts. It’s a confirmation that fear for our elderly is not just paranoia, but is a valid concern.
Another cause for concern is the amount of Medicare dollars being spent as a result of these errors and harm. Medicare is funded with taxpayer money. The Inspector General Office’s report finds that there was an estimated cost to Medicare of $208 million in August 2011 due to the failures of nursing homes. The report finds that this comes to roughly $2.8 billion that was spent on hospital treatment as a result of injuries from nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities in 2011. With so many talking about the U.S. healthcare system, both our current state and where we are headed financially, it’s surprising to learn that billions of Medicare dollars are spent on treatments for injuries that should have never occurred in the first place.
And what can be done to fix the current situation? The report offers a kind of solution. The report points to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS has pressured hospitals in a way that they haven’t been pressuring nursing homes and other skilled nursing facilities. In Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Health conducts annual surveys in nursing homes. At the Jehl Law Group, a Tennessee nursing home abuse law firm, we often turn to state surveys which help us identify a lack of care in nursing home environments. More in-depth surveys with higher penalties are necessary to hold the nursing homes accountable for their actions. After all, who hasn’t been affected when one third of our nation’s elderly citizens in nursing home settings are being harmed?
One Third of Skilled Nursing Patients Harmed in Treatment, Marshall Allen, ProPublica, March 3, 2014.