The nursing home industry has faced many challenges over the years, including battling a reputation for providing inadequate care to residents. When most people hear about accusations of neglect and abuse in nursing homes, they’re appalled.
How could facilities in charge of looking after some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens abuse and neglect their residents?
Unfortunately, these accusations of abuse and neglect often have merit and the reasons why are complex.
These problems often stem from a flawed system in which good workers have few incentives to stay in their industry and facility owners, managers, and administrators who sometimes engage in unscrupulous practices to maximize their profits.
Are Nursing Homes Staffed With Bad People?
No, nursing home workers aren’t malicious people who want to torment their facilities’ residents. In fact, working in a nursing home is difficult, often thankless work that requires patience, empathy, and kindness. And the pay usually doesn’t meet the increasingly demanding requirements of the job.
However, nursing home workers report high levels of burnout, and many only stay in their profession because they worry about the care their patients will receive if they leave. And when these workers do decide to leave, it’s typically after long periods of “anger, fear, and sadness,” according to a recent report on nursing home burnout from the Washington Post.
There are definitely some bad actors working in nursing homes, and all it takes is for one negligent provider to put residents’ well-being and lives at risk. We’ve handled many cases of nursing home abuse and neglect where staff are responsible for mistreating their residents, some to the point of serious mental, emotional, and physical harm.
However, we also see patterns further up the chain of nursing homes that make inadequate care, negligent staff, and resident mistreatment more likely.
Understanding the Incentives of Nursing Homes
The nursing home industry is fueled by incentives. Government money—through Medicaid and Medicare—supports both for-profit and non-profit facilities. The government pays extra money to nursing homes for providing extra services, often in the form of ancillary services, which can include anything from diagnostic tests to physical therapy.
Meanwhile, the general, basic care (and the general care providers) that residents need most is not incentivized with additional funds from the government. It’s far too common that those who run facilities seek revenue by providing unnecessary ancillary services or, in some cases, file false claims to receive this additional reimbursement.
Like many types of long-term care facilities, nursing homes want to make a profit. Though payments from residents and their families make up some of their revenue, funding from Medicare and Medicaid also make up big chunks of their bottom lines.
There are big incentives to provide ancillary services, but nursing homeowners have fewer financial incentives to hire nurses or give raises to existing staff members. This systemic flaw is one of the major driving factors of nursing home staff shortages. Those staff members who continue to work in nursing homes are overworked, underpaid, and disillusioned.
In the absence of adequate staffing, nursing home residents are far more likely to be neglected and receive inadequate care.
Holding Negligent Nursing Homes Accountable
Though many nursing home workers are victims of a flawed system, nursing home residents are the ones who suffer the most from these problems. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you’re right to be concerned about the quality of care they’re receiving.
Not all nursing homes consistently provide inadequate care, but many do. If you believe your loved one is being abused, neglected, or severely injured in a nursing home, you have the right to take legal action to get them the help and compensation they deserve.
At Sawyer Law Firm, we represent abused and neglected nursing home residents and their families. Even if you’ve signed an arbitration agreement, you have legal options available. J.P. Sawyer is one of the few dedicated nursing home abuse lawyers in Alabama who takes these cases, and we know what it takes to win.