Nursing Home Nightmare

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Nursing Home Nightmare

By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N., B.S.N., Attorney

First, I caution that the nursing home described in this article is not typical of all nursing homes. Some do a reasonably good job. However, I believe that all families who have someone in a nursing home have to keep watch to keep the elder safe. This true story is one of the worst case scenarios.

Arbor View Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Santa Monica, CA had over 75 complaints filed with the California Dept. of Health over a two year period. Despite the tragic death of a resident due to neglect, there had been no serious consequence for that death. The facility was inspected, and got what amounts to a “slap on the wrist: a “B” citation (lowest) and a fine of $1000. In two other severe neglect cases, the result was the same. Low fines, and “no big deal” citations. What were the Department of Public Health representatives thinking?

It took another tragic and unnecessary death to get the Department of Public Health’s attention on this terrible facility. Arbor View violated their own policies in the procedure a nurse used to insert a feeding tube into an 88 year old resident’s abdomen instead of his stomach, causing his death. Only then did Arbor View get a higher citation (Class AA) and a $100,000 fine.

The lesson here is in choosing a nursing home. The severity of a nursing home’s past actions may be hidden from public view, either by their own well funded defense by legal teams against serious citations, or by inadequate citations in the first place. However, any citations are public record, and any are a sign of trouble. The Departments of Health in our states, together with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) publish citations on the health department’s websites. Medicare, at its website www.medicare.gov attempts to “rate” nursing homes. We have issues with the system Medicare uses to do its ratings, and they are the subject of another article at AgingParents.com, but at least they try. Arbor View had a “one star”, the lowest rating by Medicare.

We urge caution for anyone whose loved one must go to a nursing home for any reason, short term or long term. Do your homework. Search your state department of health website for licensing and certification information about its nursing homes. Look at the rating at www.medicare.gov. Even if it is inconvenient to place your elder in another nursing home, don’t accept one with multiple citations against it. To learn more about how to be a good consumer when it comes to looking for nursing homes, see The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents: How to Choose a Nursing Home, available at AgingParents.com and on Amazon.com in print, downloadable version or audio format.

Ó 2009, AgingParents.com

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