Elder Abuse Victims Applaud New Nursing Home Star Ratings
If you are familiar with nursing homes in California, then you are aware of the shocking number of elder abuse cases that arise from these so-called safe havens. Truth is Americans no longer feel safe entrusting these institutions with the task of giving proper care to their loved ones. Those that have no other choice are left to make very difficult decisions on how to take care of those who have spent their lives taking care of others. The news confirms our worst fears, and the future for an increase in standards has been looking very unlikely . . . until now.
Fighting Back Against Nursing Home Abuse
According to the Los Angeles Times, patients and visitors are now being greeted with a warm welcome and a publicly posted rating of each facility. The federal ratings give facilities one to five stars depending on quality of care, much like restaurants display letter grades evaluating health and safety compliance. The new law is intended to ensure that patients and their families are aware of the evaluations to prevent future elder neglect. Nursing home officials also must post information explaining the ratings and how to obtain information about the nursing home's state licensing record from the Department of Public Health's website. Facilities that fail to follow the law face a range of potential fines.
Although this battle has been won, the opposition has been grueling from nursing home officials. Whether it is because they feel the ratings are unfair, or they know that they will have to spend substantially more money on taking care of their patients, many who own and operate these facilities don't feel that this is in their best interest. This opposition comes as no surprise and can be considered a sign that we are moving towards a future where incidents of nursing home abuse will be pubic information.
California is home to 1,235 federally rated nursing homes, more than any other state. Of those, 195 got the lowest rating, one star, and 187 got five stars. The new law will affect about 400 nursing homes in Los Angeles County serving about 30,000 people. The state is hoping to enforce the rating system to help victims avoid instances of abuse, and keep nursing home negligence attorneys from enforcing standards that should be controlled by the state. Los Angeles County's five-member Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in January to encourage Gov. Arnold Scwarzenegger and state health department officials to post the ratings, says the Los Angeles Times.
Federal officials initially scored nursing homes based on quality, staffing and inspections, issuing the top 10% of facilities in each category nationwide five stars, the bottom 20% one star and the middle 70% two, three or four stars, with an equal proportion in each category, about 23%. They have since adjusted staffing and quality measures so that nursing homes that improve can boost their star rating, according to a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"The quality measures are changing," said Edward Mortimore, technical director of the survey and certification group in the Baltimore office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "We're still evaluating what will happen."
Feuer said he worked with nursing home officials and patient advocates to shape the law, and although the ratings need to be redefined, it was important to provide as much information as possible now. I couldn't agree more, these laws will prevent countless senior abuse incidents as well as give care-takers peace of mind.
"Having as much information available as possible is crucial when families and patients are making what could literally be a life-or-death decision," Feuer said. "There's much more we need to do in terms of the quality of care at nursing homes, but it begins with patients and their families making the right decision."
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