Making the decision to place a loved one in a skilled nursing facility can be tough. For peace of mind, family members often turn to Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare and other ratings for information to help them protect their disabled and senior relatives from suffering nursing home abuse and neglect. Each year, Medicare issues a rating of up to five stars for nursing homes across the United States that accept or receive federal funds. Although annual health inspections conducted by a third party are factored into a facility’s Nursing Home Compare rating, the system is largely based on self-reported or incomplete information. Unfortunately, Medicare’s facility ratings also ignore both state fines and enforcement activity as well as any consumer complaints that are not filed with the federal government. Sadly, this can mislead consumers in Kentucky and elsewhere about the true conditions at a nursing home or other long term care facility.
Recently, the AARP’s Public Policy Institute issued a Long Term Care Score Card designed to measure the performance of nursing homes at the state level. The score card evaluates 26 indicators including facility access and cost, the quality of care received, a resident’s ability to choose a provider and setting, support offered to family members, effective transitioning, and the use of anti-psychotic pharmaceutical drugs. According to the AARP’s study, a wide disparity in the quality of nursing home care exists across the U.S. For example, state funding for home-based and community services utilizing Medicaid funds in the five highest-rated states was 62.5 percent last year. Meanwhile, the lowest-rated states dedicated only 16.7 percent of Medicaid funds to such programs. Perhaps most troubling, Kentucky’s nursing home care performance was rated dead last in the AARP’s study.
Similarly, Kentucky ranked near the bottom in the United Health Foundation’s 2014 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report. The report analyzes obesity, physical inactivity, food insecurity and poverty, and overall health in each state’s elderly population. Regrettably, the Commonwealth of Kentucky ranked 48th in the nation. One of the largest disparities across Kentucky related to income. More than half of senior citizens with an income over $75,000 annually reported being in very good or better health, while less than 20 percent of those living on under $25,000 per year could say the same. While the report found the number of nursing home beds in Kentucky rated at least four stars by Medicare increased to about 40 percent in 2014, Kentucky still ranks 43rd in the nation for nursing home quality.
The elderly and disabled people who reside in Kentucky nursing homes can be especially vulnerable to neglect or abuse at the hands of a careless, negligent, or indifferent individual. Since long-term care facility residents depend on nursing home caretakers for all of their basic needs, nursing homes should employ kind and well-trained staff. Too often, this is not the case.
If you believe your loved one was the victim of abuse or neglect while living in a Kentucky skilled nursing facility, you should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To discuss your nursing home neglect concerns with a knowledgeable advocate, please contact English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP through our website or give us a call today at (270) 781-6500.
Medicare Star Ratings Allow Nursing Homes to Game the System, by Katie Thomas, The New York Times
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