Nursing Home Abuse Investigation Crisis

Nursing Home Abuse Investigation Crisis

According to the federal Government Accountability Office (GOP), California continually fails to meet national standards in nursing home abuse investigations and is failing to address serious quality of care deficiencies that threaten the health and lives of nursing home residents.

“The latest study demonstrates that California's only consumer protection agency for nursing home residents—the California Department of Health Services—is NOT protecting them from neglect and abuse,” says executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Pat McGinnis.

The GOP, the investigative arm of the federal legislature, conducted a review of each state's nursing home abuse investigation data from 1999 to 2005. According to the report, The California Department of Health Services Licensing and Certification Program is failing to identify the frequency of serious deficiencies in nursing home facilities.

From 2003 to 2005, California investigators found that six percent of California's 1,300 nursing homes committed “actual harm” to residents or put residents in “immediate jeopardy.” This six percent is much lower than the national average. Connecticut, for example, found 54 percent of their nursing homes had been issued citations for these serious deficiencies. Experts say failure to meet reporting standards—not fewer cases of nursing home abuse—are responsible for this large discrepancy in nursing home abuse reports.

According to the GOP study, federal investigators found 17 percent more serious nursing home abuse cases than the California investigators found during the same time period. The report states that California is unable to respond to the increasing number of nursing home complaints.

While the state has nursing home investigations laws, California failing to comply with their own nursing home standards, as well as federal standards.

Many nursing homes don't provide proper care to the residents and when it's brought to the state's attention to do something about it they are often too lax in reacting,” says another member of CANHR, Michael Connors, “ It's a failure of the state to enforce its own laws.”

For example, California's law states that all nursing home complaints must be investigated within ten days . If the complaint alleges an immediate threat to nursing home residents, the investigation must begin within 24 hours . Currently, it takes the state weeks or months to conduct nursing home complaint investigations.

The California legislature has passed a number of laws, such as minimum nursing home staffing standards, but facilities often fail to comply.

Some of the most common types of nursing home abuse include verbal and/or physical assaults , including hitting, yelling and cursing at residents. Sexual abuse is also a form of nursing home abuse.

Neglect is another major type of nursing home abuse. Typically involving failure to provide basic care, nursing home neglect can include failure to treat bedsores , change bedding or clothes when the patient wets the bed, and dehydration . When these conditions are left untreated, it can cause serious damage to a patient, including infection , compulsory amputation , and sometimes death .

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