I ran across a sad but interesting article discussing the difficulties in choosing the right nursing home for a loved one.
The author was looking for the right place for his wife who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. He used the federal database (the Nursing Home Compare Database) that is supposed to help in choosing a nursing home for our loved one. This can be found at: www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.
He visited dozen facilities, making a careful inspection of each, before finally deciding on one that seemed just right. Afterwards he realized, after reading an editorial in the Boston Globe, that he could easily have made a really bad choice.
The Boston Globe April 27 piece entitled, “Enforce Quality Care for Elders,” the Globe points out that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is failing in its duty to make sure that nursing homes correct their shortcomings and then continue to meet quality standards. That is the conclusion of an April 23 report Congress mandated from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Here’s a quote from that report, referring to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS):
“In general, the effectiveness of CMS’s management of nursing home enforcement is hampered by the overall complexity of its immediate sanctions policy, intended to deter repeated noncompliance, and by its fragmented data systems and incomplete national reporting capabilities.”
You’ll find this report at: www.gao.gov/htext/d07241.html.
According to the Globe, the U.S. has more than 16,000 nursing homes, caring on an average day for about 1.5 million patients. Another report that Congress mandated dated Feb. 21, 2002 — more than five years ago — begins: “HHS Nursing Home Compare Website Has Major Flaws.”
This report said: “The report finds that ‘Nursing Home Compare’ has major flaws that can mislead families seeking to find a safe nursing home.”
Here’s what they’re hiding from consumers: the data on ‘Nursing Home Compare’ does not include tens of thousands of recent violations of federal health standards, including nearly 60 percent of the violations involving death or serious injury.
Tthe Nursing Home Compare Web site is being used by millions of familiest. The Web site receives approximately 100,000 visits a month and is one of the most popular destinations for individuals who view the Medicare homepage. HHS says, “the most important information on this site is the searchable database that allows the public to determine the compliance status of virtually any nursing home in the United States.”
Despite this talk of compliance, the report shows that the HHS Web site in fact excludes information on many documented health violations in these nursing homes. Information is missing because Nursing Home Compare does not include the results of complaint investigations conducted by state inspectors.
You can read the whole thing. Just search on: “Nursing Home Compare Website Has Major Flaws.”