Brochures boast of event-filled days and are plastered with pictures of seniors smiling widely, chatting with friends in the lobby, or strolling through manicured lawns. While nursing homes certainly have the feel-good factor down pat, there is more to the story than meets the eye, and the Sacramento Bee set out to discover the truth in a recent investigative series.
When loved ones are faced with the decision of choosing the best care facility for their elderly family members, it seems like it should be fairly simple. After all, there are over 1,000 nursing home facilities in the state of California.
What these decision-makers don't know is that the majority of these facilities are backed by less than desirable statistics and facts. Reports of high staff turnover, unattended bed sores that turned fatal, and improperly medicated residents run rampant through California nursing homes, however, most consumers are shielded from the truth.
WHAT DOES THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT?
Unfortunately, this is where things get a little bit murky. What is clear is that there appears to be no one agency that is regularly assessing major nursing home chains to appraise their care. Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health, the agency you'd expect to be on the consumer's side, is far from where they need to be.
The Department of Public Health currently does not measure the patterns of care demonstrated by nursing home chains and appears to have no intentions to do so.
Numerous statistics revealed by the Sacramento Bee's research showed just how far these care facilities have fallen from where they should, and need to, be. The state of California boasts of 25 for-profit nursing home chains that control nearly half of the state's licensed beds. Many of these were far below the average level of care and often face unnecessarily low staffing and high turnover rates.
But who should be held responsible for this elder care that is so clearly failing to deliver what patients and family members need? With the deliberate mess that nursing home chains are kept in, it is nearly impossible to pin responsibility on any one organization and people need to know who owns what in order to make an informed decision for their loved ones.
CONSISTENT PATTERNS OF WEAKNESS EMERGE IN CARE FACILITIES
Without an advocate, how is anyone supposed to properly evaluate nursing homes? The government thus far has failed immensely to serve as the necessary proponent of consumers throughout California and even across America.
Two facilities emerged as extremely weak links in the already flimsy strand of nursing home chains – EmpRes Healthcare and LifeHouse Health Services. Both performed the lowest in overall care and performance, but don't let the other facilities fool you.
Systemic patterns of abuse and insufficient staffing numbers parade throughout the majority of these facilities. One company experienced problems of sexual assault and failed to take action, another received complaints above the state average, and still others purposefully chose not to hire enough nurses in an effort to cut costs and save.
A chilling statement from the Sacramento Bee summed up the research well: “Bad corporate practices – especially in the area of staffing – can spread like an infectious disease throughout a nursing-home chain.”