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Nursing Homes Facing Increased Scrutiny Due to New Federal Rating Standards

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Even though no major changes have occurred, overnight nearly one-third of the nursing homes in the United States will find themselves with a reduced quality of care rating. This isn’t due to reductions in level of care at the facilities, but rather due to increased expectations and a more comprehensive rating criteria. The new ratings system comes after advocates claimed that scores had been inflated for years. According to the director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, “We’ve been concerned for quite some time that the ratings have been over-inflated, particularly as they relate to quality and staffing.” While the advocacy organization describes the previous scores as “over-inflated”, the nursing homes, themselves, see it differently. Their view is that the care facilities reached such high levels of compliance with the previous system, that the ratings became less useful.

However, the nursing home industry is concerned that consumers will be confused by the new ratings system and attribute reduced scores to reduced care rather than heightened expectations. Despite these concerns, once consumers become accustomed to it the new system should provide additional information to make informed decisions regarding managed care. Furthermore, the ratings may allow consumers to pinpoint trouble spots in their loved one’s care. And if despite all of your research and concern something does go wrong at the nursing home, the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak can work to hold the nursing home or responsible party accountable for your loved one’s injuries or death.

What Changes does the New Rating System Implement?

The new ratings system does address a number of complaints long advanced by nursing home residents and their families. To start with, families have long charged that nursing home staff was unnecessarily utilizing sedating medications and anti-psychotic drugs inappropriately and for the purposes of making residents more manageable. Despite making the staff’s job easier, use of these prescription drugs carry serious risks for older adults with an especially pronounced risk for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. These medications should only be used when medically necessary.

Unfortunately, it appears that this is, perhaps, the greatest pain point revealed by the new rating system. Approximately 20% of all homes received the lowest possible rating on this metric. Facilities lost points in this category is they administered drugs of this type on residents not diagnosed with conditions like Tourette’s or schizophrenia.  While the conditions at all nursing homes are different, a minimal score in this area may indicate a problem at a nursing home regarding overprescribing powerful anti-psychotic drugs to those who do not need them. If you have a loved one in one of these homes, it may be worth inquiring into the care and types of drugs he or she is receiving.

Another important change is that the new system now accounts for facility staffing levels. Since adequate staffing levels form such a critical basis for an acceptable standard of care, this is a common-sense change to make. The new staffing accountability measures also distinguish between trained nursing staff members and aids. Despite this change, less than 10% of facilities faced a negative impact on their staffing scores. However if the facility where your loved one is scores in the bottom percentiles, then you should inquire into their care and ensure that they are receiving food and medication appropriately and that they are otherwise not being neglected.

Overall, the changes had a fairly minimal impact on the comprehensive facility score. The average overall rating did drop from 3.46 stars, under the old system, to 3.14 stars, under the new system. Unfortunately only about 2% of facilities saw their overall rating increase.  The new ratings are currently available on the Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare website.

Call Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Ken Kieklak For Help

If you discover a problem such as elder abuse, negligent care, or other serious problems at your loved one’s nursing home, Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak can fight to hold the responsible parties financially accountable. To discuss you nursing home concerns, calling us at (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.

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