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Is nursing home care declining?

A recent report from the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General paints a bleak picture of nursing home care. From 2011 to 2015, the percentage of residents filing a complaint rose sharply. This rate increase included an increase in reports of problems that endangered the lives of residents. These serious incidents became more common even as the total number of nursing home residents dropped slightly.

Location matters

The HHS report covers the entire country, but the bad news was not spread evenly throughout the states. The rate of complaints was 50 times higher in the worst state than in the best. The vast majority of states met the requirement of investigating the most serious complaints within two days. The exceptions were Tennessee and Georgia, which accounted for more than 80% of the “immediate jeopardy” complaints that were not promptly investigated.

When above average is not very good

The national average for nursing home complaints went from 32.7 to 44.9 per 1,000 residents. In Iowa, the rate of complaints is 31.3. While that is better than average, and far better than Missouri’s 105 per 1,000 residents, it is far off the pace set by the nation’s leader. Hawaii reported only 2.1 complaints per 1,000 nursing home residents. The relatively stable nursing home population leaves no valid excuse for the increased incidences of nursing homes giving inadequate care.

Neglect and abuse

Not every complaint can be traced back to nursing home neglect or abuse. That said, many of these complaints do come down to negligence on the part of the care provider. Negligence in hiring, training or supervision can all lead to complaints. Even more terrifying are situations where elderly residents are subjected to violence and other forms of abuse. Every complaint deserves to be scrutinized. There is no excuse for putting the most vulnerable among us into harm’s way.

Source: MedPage Today, “By the Numbers: Big Jump in Nursing Home Complaints," by Matt Wynn, 6 October 2017

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