The nursing home patient advocacy group, Families for Better Care, recently released its 2013 Nursing Home Report Card. The findings were worrisome for families across the country, but the problems were especially dire in several states, including serious problems here in Virginia. One of the absolute worst, Nevada, was found to have especially troubling issues with the nursing homes in the state.
Nevada was one of two states where every single nursing home inspected by state health officials last year was cited with at least one deficiency. Of even more concern was that one in three of these nursing homes were cited with severe deficiencies, meaning a resident was at risk for actual harm or was otherwise in imminent danger.
Families for Better Care based their report card on a collection of data from state health inspector reports as well as the 2012 federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data. The results revealed that several patients died in Nevada nursing homes due to substandard care including one resident who died after being discharged from a skilled nursing facility while still suffering from serious breathing problems. Another patient died in a facility after not having a bowel movement for days.
The conditions in the Nevada nursing homes were seen as generally deplorable, earning the state an “F” on the report card. The organization specifically noted how despite the host of problems, not a single nursing facility in the state was ever slapped with a monetary penalty for their failures. Families for Better Care pointed out that states that fail to penalize those care facilities that fall down only succeed in making the problem worse. By not punishing misbehavior, states fail to incentive nursing homes to provide quality care to patients.
The report card noted that one of the biggest issues in Nevada nursing homes is that residents receive less than two hours and 10 minutes of direct care every day. This low level of direct staff contact is caused by understaffing which means each nursing home worker is tasked with tending to far more patients than they can safely care for. The report said that if facilities could increase staffing enough to get direct care levels to around three hours per day per resident then there would be a dramatic increase in nursing home quality.
Though the news in Nevada is grim, the news here in Virginia is equally abysmal. Families for Better Care gave Virginia an overall grade of “D”, with the state ranking 33rd in terms of overall care provided to nursing home residents. Virginia earned the unfortunate distinction of being one of only 10 states that scored below average grades in every category of the report card. In Virginia, nine out of 10 nursing homes were cited for a deficiency at some point in 2012 by state health inspectors. Finally, residents in nursing homes in Virginia receive only two hours and twenty minutes of direct care every day, only slightly more than Nevada’s painfully low level.
The hope among those at Families for Better Care is that by calling attention to rampant deficiencies at the nation’s nursing homes, lawmakers at the state and federal levels might be prompted to take action to improve conditions. Passing more stringent laws regarding staffing levels or doling out more punitive fines against nursing home facilities that fail to provide quality care are some important ways that state officials can help solve the serious problems facing elderly residents.