On March 6, a number of individuals whose loved ones have suffered from abuse in nursing homes testified before Congress in an effort to identify what can be done to better protect residents living in these facilities. A number of the facilities' names in the testimonies receive the highest possible ranking for quality of care, even though they have been cited and fined for nursing home abuse over the years.
The Scope of the Problem
According to a CNN investigation conducted in 2017, the government cited more than 1,000 facilities for failing to prevent and/or mishandling sexual abuse in these facilities, between 2013 and 2016 alone. When a facility is investigated by a state health investigator, it is typically based on information reported to the centers; however, the centers only regulate those facilities that receive reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. States also reportedly conduct unannounced survey inspections of nursing homes. Still, the only penalty doled out by the centers typically involves financial penalties and/or termination from the government-reimbursement program.
There are currently two government entities investigating these issues, including the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of Health and Human Services. Each of these entities will be producing reports, which will then trigger new Congressional hearings. In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid—charged with rating and overseeing these facilities—announced that they will be updating the Nursing Home Compare database that allows the public to view ratings based on such factors as inspections, staffing, and background checks. The centers have also issued new guidance that clarifies what information will be used to identify abuse or neglect cases ahead of time.
Still, not enough is being done to address the issue of repeat offenders continuing to work in these facilities—and individuals’ loved ones being placed at risk as a result—in spite of a history of concerning behavior and suspensions. Allegations should never be dismissed simply because the victims suffer from Alzheimer’s, workers must receive the right training to identify abuse, and reports must always reach authorities. Instead, not only do assailants continue to work at the facilities, but they continue to have access to residents through such oversights as providing overnight shifts. Still, even when the assault is found, the facilities are frequently never cited for any wrongdoing.