Nursing home ratings hide substandard quality of care

Caring for an elderly loved one who needs special assistance can be complicated, and in-home care is expensive. There are many factors that Kentucky families should take into consideration when searching for nursing facilities. One of the most critical points to consider is adequate staffing for proper care.

The Herald-Leader reports that until 2010, Medicare used unverified reporting by nursing homes to rate the facilities. Now that payroll records are verified, it appears that staffing may temporarily increase to required levels during reporting periods. Significant fluctuations in on-duty personnel results in patient care below standard accepted levels.

Provisions in the Affordable Care Act set patient-staff ratios as well as the requirements for the number of registered nurses and certified nurse aides that must be on duty at all times. Understaffing results in neglected residents and inadequate care. Exaggerated staffing reports led to misleading ratings and gave families a false picture of the quality of living the residents received. Now that Medicare has a better idea of the conditions in nonprofit and for-profit facilities, the ratings reflect the quality of care more accurately.

Signs of elder abuse include unexplained injuries, infected bedsores, unusual agitation and unexplained death. However, neglect may not be apparent. Malnutrition and dehydration may not show visible signs immediately. Unsanitary conditions are also an indication of neglect or abuse. Families who see these signs and more may want to talk with an attorney about the rights of their loved ones. Understaffed nursing homes may be providing a standard of care that endangers the health and well-being of family members.

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