AARP Seeks Tougher Nursing Home Regulations

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has taken aim at one of the most under-reported and endemic problems facing seniors today: lax nursing home regulations. The AARP is demanding that legislators pass stricter nursing home regulations to protect seniors from abuse, neglect, and poor living conditions. But, do seniors need protection? AARP Seeks Tougher Nursing Home Regulations

AARP Takes Aim at Nursing Home Regulations

A recent survey conducted by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) found that “assisted living residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives at assisted living.” However, this experience may not be consistent amongst nursing homes, depending on the state and nursing home in which you live.

A recent report on Texas nursing homes entitled Intolerable Care was released by AARP which condemned many of the state’s nursing homes as “shamefully poor” —a result of  an “inadequate state regulatory structure with insufficient power for sanctioning violates of licensing requirements.” According to the report, the result of the state’s inaction against violators at these nursing homes means numerous health and safety violations went unchecked.

Lack of Accountability

The Intolerable Care study examined twenty years of data and revealed that there was a “troubling lack of attention” to the problem of accountability, concluding that ultimately nursing home operators were not being held accountable.

The report found:

  • 454 “violations of the highest severity” which put patients in immediate jeopardy
  • 312 violations “at the second-highest severity” which caused patients “actual harm”
  • 14,547 incidents that had the “potential for more than minimal harm”
  • 2,153 incidents which had “potential for minimal harm.”

Speaking to the El Paso Herald, AARP representative Amanda Fredriksen described the violations more viscerally. “We’re talking about bed sores untended, residents dropped and experiencing bruises and broken bones, people getting medications they shouldn’t be given,” she says.

Same Group of Nursing Homes Responsible for Majority of Violations

In total Texas authorities found over 17,000 state violations, but took “only 40 enforcement actions,” according to the report. Worryingly, 94% of these infractions came from the same group of 328 nursing homes (there are more than 1,200 nursing homes in the state). Only 22% of these 328 nursing homes had been fined by the state.

This lack of accountability has created an unsafe living environment for many residents, leaving some nursing home operators feeling immune to regulators.

An additional concern is that the majority of the nursing homes (about 70%) in the state do meet regulations, but are not acknowledged for providing superior care to their residents. Meanwhile, their competition can continue to operate in an irresponsible and unsafe manner.

Stricter Nursing Home Regulations

Although Texas is considered one of the worst offenders, AARP’s findings are applicable across the country, where lax regulations continue to jeopardize the lives and well being of seniors. As such, AARP made several recommendations, including:

  • Remove “Right to Correct”: Currently nursing homes that have violated state rules are given a chance to fix their mistakes. This extends the period of time that residents are living in unsafe conditions. Nursing home operators also have little incentive to maintain safe conditions prior to being charged with a violation.
  • Don’t defer to the federal government: Texas institutions cannot be fined by the state if they violate federal guidelines.
  • Escalate penalties: For serious or continual violations.

Roadblocks

AARP has consistently and strongly supported legislation designed to improve nursing home living conditions and hold negligent operators to account. In 2014 AARP supported the findings of a report by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which recommended stronger regulations. Legislation was proposed, but as of February 2017 has yet to be approved.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) nursing home regulations were simplified and strengthened, but these changes are under threat as the future of the ACA is placed in doubt.

Making the decision to place a loved one, or even one’s self into a nursing home is not easy. The individuals who rely on this care deserve a safe environment. Under current legislation across the country, and in Texas especially, this standard of care is not consistently being met.

There are nursing home operators dedicated to providing a high standard of care. These industry leaders need to act as advocates to ensure a consistent, high standard of care is offered to seniors in all nursing homes across the country.

A recent survey conducted by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) found that “assisted living residents are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives at assisted living.” However, this experience may not be consistent amongst nursing homes, depending on the state and nursing home in which you live.

A recent report on Texas nursing homes entitled Intolerable Care was released by AARP which condemned many of the state’s nursing homes as “shamefully poor” —a result of  an “inadequate state regulatory structure with insufficient power for sanctioning violates of licensing requirements.” According to the report, the result of the state’s inaction against violators at these nursing homes means numerous health and safety violations went unchecked.

Do you think more strict regulations should be in place for nursing homes? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 

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