More Advocates Pushing for Stronger Standards of Elder Care

Despite the strong standards that are set by the state and federal governments that are supposed to ensure that our elderly nursing home residents receive good care, a recent federal study found that over one third of all short term patients who enter a nursing home for rehabilitation are harmed. Moreover, the study found that almost sixty percent of the harm caused to these residents could have been preventable.

Federal Nursing Home Study

The report, published by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, studied the number of adverse events occurring in skilled nursing facilities across the United States. The experts discovered that an estimated 22% of Medicare beneficiaries suffered an “adverse event” during their stay at a nursing home facility, and an additional eleven percent suffered a temporary harm during their time at a facility.

Physician reviews determined that 59% of all of the adverse events and temporary harm were clearly or likely preventable. Much of this preventable harm was attributed in the study to substandard treatment, inadequate monitoring of the residents, and a failure or delay in necessary care.

Over fifty percent of the residents who suffered an adverse event or temporary harm had to return to a hospital for treatment, which cost Medicare an estimated $208 million in one month alone. In total, Medicare spent an extra $2.8 billion on hospital treatment for harm caused by adverse events or temporary harm in nursing home facilities.

Federal Study Recommendations

Because the majority of the adverse events and temporary harm was deemed preventable, the experts of the study concluded the need and opportunity for skilled nursing facilities to greatly reduce the incidents of resident harm. They suggested that other federal agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality begin campaigns to raise awareness of nursing home safety and look to reduce the incidents of harm through methods used to promote hospital safety standards.

In addition, the researchers suggested creating and promoting a list of potential nursing home events that lead to these adverse events in order to help nursing home staff better recognize potentials for harm. Federal agencies were also encouraged to instruct state agencies to review nursing home practices in order to identify and reduce the number of adverse events.

Federal Nursing Home Law

The federal government has enacted laws that are supposed to prevent the number of adverse events in nursing homes and achieve a high level of care for each patient. Part 483 of Title 42 of the federal code, otherwise known as the Nursing Home Reform Law, sets forth strong standards for care in long-term care state facilities.

According to the law, each resident must be provided the care needed to attain and maintain their highest practicable physical, emotional and social well-being. All skilled nursing home facilities are required to have sufficient staff to achieve this, and unnecessary drugs are prohibited. However, with this most recent study released, it may signify the need for stricter rules regarding our senior’s nursing home care.

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