The process of finding the right facility for your elderly relative is challenging and involves researching availability, cost, and most importantly, the level of care your loved one will receive. Many families look to nursing home reviews and ratings to get a sense of the facility’s capabilities. It makes sense that a home with good reviews would be a safe place to put your loved one; however, recent information shows that the national nursing home rating system is flawed and cannot be blindly trusted. Find out why you should be skeptical when viewing nursing home ratings and how to protect your loved one from becoming a victim of nursing home abuse.
National Nursing Home Rating System
In 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a national five-star rating system that allowed caregivers, patients, and family members to compare quality standards when searching for a nursing home.
The system is based on three areas of information: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures (QMs). The system assesses the quality of each area with a numerical rating of 1 through 5. A 1 rating indicates below-average quality, while a 5 indicates above-average quality. Each of the three measurement areas receives its own rating, and the nursing home also receives an overall star rating.
Flaws in the Nursing Home Rating System
Although the intentions behind the rating system are noble, the practical application of data reporting and measurement has proven problematic. The rating system relies on a mixture of state health inspection reports and data provided by nursing home administrators, both of which misrepresent the information and provide a more positive picture of nursing home care than actually exists.
The result is that those who go to the rating system for an accurate representation of care for their loved ones are being fed false information. This leads to many instances of elder abuse and neglect, even at highly-rated facilities.
The following are major problem areas regarding the five-star rating system:
The fact that the rating system relies on self-reported data is a major problem. Privately owned facilities rely on good ratings to make a profit, and public-run nursing homes need high numbers to receive funding. This dynamic creates the need to fudge the numbers in favor of the QMs and Staffing rating areas. Homes report higher staff-resident interaction than occurs, and they may alter information relating to the physical and clinical measures that determine how well they care for residents.
In addition to self-reporting issues, the CMS often fails to audit health inspection reports to ensure that the information being reported is correct and that issues that are found are addressed.
Many homes are tipped off on health inspections and hide issues from the inspector. They also place temporary fixes on long-standing issues so that the inspectors downgrade the problem or don’t mark it because it appears that it is being resolved. Without CMS audits of the health inspections, nursing homes have no accountability to follow through on the findings nor for inspectors to perform thorough inspections.
Unfortunately, the nursing home rating system has become a form of free marketing to nursing homes. Its original intention was to offer people an easy, impartial way to compare the standard of care between nursing home facilities.
However, what has happened is that nursing home administrators and owners are using the system to advertise to customers, much like a hotel review online. This effect has increased the self-reporting errors and misdirection to get a higher rating and become a more profitable or higher funded facility.
For families and victims of nursing home abuse in an Alabama nursing home facility, it is important to reach out to a Montgomery nursing home lawyer as soon as possible. Not only can you seek compensation for their injuries and emotional distress, but you can also help raise awareness about the fallibility of the nursing home rating system by taking legal action against the home.