- November 7, 2017
- Nursing Home Abuse
In our last post, we talked about a Western North Carolina residential care facility that, in 2015, received a zero rating by NC Department of Health and Human Services because of numerous, egregious health and safety standard violations that left the facility’s residents at serious risk of harm. Despite this, the facility’s owner successfully sued DHHS to withdraw the dismal rating, along with the fines the agency had levied. Even now, the facility’s rating in state documentation is listed as four stars, with no issues reported or cautions to consumers listed about the home’s past violations.
Many families deciding on a nursing home rely on state ratings to help them make the best choice for their aging parents. The fact that state agency ratings may be untrustworthy has disquieting implications for residents of Asheville seeking nursing home care for a loved one. How can families determine whether a nursing home is right for their aging parent or relative? In this article, we will discuss how you can evaluate a nursing home without relying solely on ratings from government agencies.
Federal government ratings of nursing homes
Medicare beneficiaries who want to use their benefits to help pay for their nursing home care must choose a facility that is Medicare-certified. Medicare also operates Nursing Home Compare, a website that allows users to see ratings of nursing homes in an area and compare these ratings to other facilities they are considering. The website lists the facilities’ overall ratings, health inspections, staffing, and quality measures on a 5-point scale.
Like state ratings of nursing homes, federal ratings have problems that make them unreliable. Some ratings are based on self-reporting by the facilities themselves, which obviously would not report any serious issues to an overseeing agency. Inspections by government agencies can be inadequate and infrequent, resulting in inspectors to overlook serious sanitation or safety issues at a nursing home.
For these reasons, it is not wise to place too much trust positive ratings on government websites. Relying solely on a facility’s positive ratings in all areas could cause families to choose a nursing home that is just good at hiding its faults from inspectors. However, ratings are useful in one important way: they can help you narrow down your search for a nursing home. Positive ratings are not always accurate, but negative ratings usually are. You can safely eliminate nursing homes from your search that have low ratings in any areas.
Seek nursing home references
References from members of the community are almost always the best way to choose a reliable nursing home in Asheville. Beyond family, friends and colleagues, here are some people you might consider reaching out to when you have questions about a nursing home or are trying to figure out where to start your search:
- Clergy or members of your church
- Support groups for Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other degenerative disease patients
- Your local Council on Aging
- Medical professionals
Support groups and medical specialists are especially useful for people who have special needs like Alzheimer’s or dementia care or specialized equipment like ventilators that many facilities lack. You can ask members of your support group about their experience with a particular nursing home or if there are any facilities they recommend. Specialists often have experience with many nursing homes in an area, especially if their specialty brings a lot of seniors into their practice. Though they may not be able to give you a referral to a nursing home, doctors can often talk about the strengths and weaknesses that they see in nursing homes in your area.
Choose a nearby nursing home
Proximity to family is another important factor to consider when choosing a nursing home for a loved one. Frequent visits from family are a predictor of a patient’s mental and physical health. Nursing home patients who receive regular visits from their families are happier and healthier than people who are isolated from their families because of distance or because their families simply cannot or do not make time to visit. This comes as no surprise – regular contact with loved ones influences health at all stages of life.
Frequent visits from family also have an effect on the quality of care patients receive. Family members can ask for the care that their loved one may be unable or unwilling to ask for, and they can monitor their relatives for signs of neglect or abuse. This often results in a cleaner, safer environment that is more conducive to healing from sickness or injury and can have a positive impact on residents’ overall well-being.
Contact an Asheville nursing home abuse lawyer
Unfortunately, many families find out too late that the nursing home their relatives live in are dangerous, abusive environments that leave them with physical and mental injuries. Bedsores, systemic infections, broken bones, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other injuries or conditions are common in seniors who have been abused or neglected. Victims of nursing home abuse or neglect often need intensive care for their injuries, resulting in burdensome medical bills and other problems for their families.
An experienced Asheville personal injury attorney can advise nursing home abuse victims and their families, who often don’t know where to start after abuse or neglect has been uncovered. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with our personal injury team. We can discuss with you the first steps to recovering compensation from a negligent nursing home and develop a plan that will allow you and your family to focus on your loved one’s recovery.