Loved Ones Might Be Suffering From Nursing Home Neglect
If you have a family member in a Florida nursing home, you likely took great care when choosing that facility to ensure that your loved one receives the best care possible. You may even have relied heavily on the U.S. government’s star rating system when choosing a nursing home under the belief that a facility with a high star rating was sure to provide the best care. Unfortunately, your loved one may nevertheless be suffering from nursing home neglect in Florida.
If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of neglect, the experienced nursing home neglect attorneys at Warner & Warner can help. We are zealous advocates for nursing home abuse victims and are committed to ensuring that the negligent parties are held accountable, and victims are compensated for all their injuries.
The U.S. Government Star Rating System
By the turn of the 21st century, serious problems with the quality of care provided at the nation’s nursing homes were well-known. As more and more for-profit facilities opened their doors or took over existing facilities, the threat of facilities putting profits before quality care increased. To address the problem, the U.S. government introduced a simple star rating that promised to distill reams of information into an objective, government sanctioned rating system for nursing homes with one-star being the worst and five stars indicating the best facilities. As anticipated, consumers began to rely heavily on the ratings and facilities used a high star rating to attract new residents.
The star rating system is administered by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (C.M.S.) and relies on a mix of self-reported data from more than 15,000 nursing homes and on-site examinations by state health inspectors. The star rating is supposed to be based on the results of inspections, the amount of time nurses spend with residents, and the quality of care that residents receive.
The star rating system, however, has not lived up to expectations. On the contrary, nursing homes continue to be understaffed, poorly regulated, and receive little oversight. Moreover, the rating system itself has been shown to be easily manipulated and generally unreliable, leaving nursing home residents vulnerable to serious neglect, according to a recent New York Times investigation that included an exhaustive review of nursing home payroll records, inspection reports, and financial records from across the nation.
Can You Rely on the Star Rating System?
When you chose a nursing home for your loved one, you probably paid attention to the facility’s star rating – if not relied on it entirely – when making your decision. The recent Covid-19 pandemic, however, has once again thrust nursing homes into the spotlight and uncovered some shocking and disturbing realities that could mean your loved one is at risk of being neglected even if he/she is a resident at a five-star facility. Among the more startling revelations of the New York Times investigation are the following:
- Incorrect information. Much of the information submitted to C.M.S. is wrong. Almost always, that incorrect information makes the homes seem cleaner and safer than they are. From 2017 to 2019 health inspectors wrote up about 5,700 nursing homes, more than one out of every three in the country, for misreporting data about residents’ well-being. That included nearly 800 homes with top ratings.
- Inflated staffing figures. Some nursing homes inflate their staffing levels by including employees who are on vacation or including administrative staff who do not directly interact with residents.
- Underreporting potentially dangerous (and unnecessary) medicating residents. The number of patients on dangerous antipsychotic medications is frequently understated.
- Unreported accidents and injuries. Residents’ accidents and health problems often go unreported. Half of all the nursing homes underreported potentially deadly pressure ulcers, or bedsores, by at least 50 percent, according to a paper published by Integra Med Analytics.
- Self-reporting does not work. Nursing homes that earn five stars for their quality of care are nearly as likely to flunk in-person inspections as to ace them. But the government rarely audits the nursing homes’ data.
- Surprise inspections may not be a surprise. Data suggest that at least some nursing homes know in advance about what are supposed to be surprise inspections. In 2019, about 70 percent of nursing homes increased their staff on the days inspectors visited, compared with their typical staffing levels on that day of the week. In 2017, a state health inspector in Florida pleaded guilty to accepting $500,000 in bribes for telling homes about future inspections.
- Abuse and neglect are vastly underreported. A 2019 report published by the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that nursing homes reported only 16 percent of incidents where residents were hospitalized for “potential abuse and neglect.”
- Abuse and neglect findings do not lower star ratings. Health inspectors still routinely found problems with abuse and neglect at five-star facilities, yet they rarely deemed the infractions serious enough to merit lower ratings.
- A 5-star rating is no guarantee of quality care. At some five-star nursing homes, residents developed bedsores so severe that their bones were exposed. Others lost the ability to move. Of the more than 3,500 homes rated with five stars, over 2,400 were cited for problems with infection control or patient abuse.
Widespread Problems Lead to Nursing Home Neglect
The reality is that residents of the nation’s 15,400 C.M.S.-certified nursing homes are much older, sicker, and poorer than they used to be. “Nursing homes are really little hospitals, yet they’re not staffed like it. If you asked an I.C.U. nurse to take care of 15 people, she’d laugh at you, but that’s essentially what we have,” according to Chris Laxton, the executive director of AMDA, the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. Making matters worse is the fact that many nursing home workers are nursing assistants making little more than minimum wage. Many are forced to work in a nursing home during the day and then work a second job as a home health aid in the evening or overnight just to make enough to survive. The Covid-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse, leading many nursing home workers to quit their jobs altogether and exacerbating the staffing shortage problem. All these problems increase the risk to nursing home residents of neglect that can lead to serious injuries or illness.
When Should I Contact a Florida Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer?
If you have reason to believe that a loved one has suffered nursing home neglect in Florida, consult with an experienced nursing home neglect attorney at Warner & Warner. You may be entitled to pursue a civil lawsuit against the facility and/or other at-fault parties and recover monetary damages for all the injuries suffered by your loved one because of the neglect.
If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect in Florida, call us at 321-972-1889 or contact us online to schedule a free case review.