Approximately 560 nursing homes nationwide and 45 in California received a one-star rating by the federal government for the past three years in a row. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rating system, introduced in 2008, gives residential care facilities a one to five star rating based on annual inspections, the amount of time staff time spends with residents, and other quality measures. Under the rating system, one-star is the lowest score available and is reportedly assigned to nursing homes that fall far below average when compared with other homes in their respective state. Issues which can have an effect on a facility's rating include mistreatment of residents, the employment of unlicensed staff, and regularly dirty equipment and linens.
The federal rating system is designed to provide citizens with increased transparency about nursing home quality. According to Janet Wells, Public Policy Director at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a variety of factors can result in a nursing home quality drop almost immediately. A new administrator, manager, nursing director, and changes in direct care personnel can have a dramatic effect on the quality of care in any particular facility. A change in ownership can also diminish the quality of care.
The 2011 federal nursing home ratings show 35 percent of the 15,700 nursing homes rated received a one or two star rating. Meanwhile, 43 percent of facilities were given four or five stars. 564 nursing homes were consistently rated one-star for three years straight. About two-thirds of those facilities are operated by for-profit chains. In contrast, only 40 percent of the nearly 16,000 nursing homes analyzed by the government were part of for-profit chains. 448 nursing homes were consistently given a five-star rating each of the last three years.
Some in the nursing home industry believe reducing staff turnover has a dramatic effect on the quality of care residents receive. A voluntary program helped improve care in 17 inner-city nursing homes by focusing on resident quality of life. When direct caregivers are familiar with resident needs, clinical quality generally improves. The program tended to demonstrate higher care quality when the same staff members assist the same patients on a daily basis.
Even with a federal rating system, nursing home quality can be tough to verify. In a perfect world, ratings such as those promulgated by the federal government would help residents determine which facility is right for them. Unfortunately, nursing home residents do not always have a choice regarding which facility is tasked with their care. Because of this, it is important to be on the lookout for signs of elder abuse or mistreatment at any residential care facility. Nursing home abuse often occurs as a result of unqualified direct care staff and may include physical abuse, withholding food, incorrectly or over-medicating, sexual abuse, inadequate medical care, and emotional distress.
Common signs of elder neglect or abuse include pressure sores, overuse of restraints, unexplained accidents, bruises, broken bones, and even scratches. A nursing home resident may also lose his or her appetite, become dehydrated, or become depressed. It is vital for you to take all complaints of nursing home abuse or neglect seriously. If you suspect a nursing home resident is being neglected or abused, contact a qualified California elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible.