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Nahon, Saharovich, & Trotz

Nursing Homes Face Temptation of Placing Profits Over People

As in any business, there is usually a link between operational costs to run the business and the available profits for the owners.  This is a problem when the health and well being of the disabled or elderly residents are being disregarded. A Tennessee-based nursing home recently came under fire for failing to pay its utility bills and neglecting patients. Due to neglect, several patients developed pressure ulcers and genital wounds. Failing to timely indentify and treat the beginning stages of a pressure ulcer could be the difference between a full recovery rather than amputation, infection or even death. While the patients were receiving inadequate care, the co-founders of the nursing home were paying themselves annual salaries of $432,000 and $288,000 respectively. They also each drove a Porsche that was financed by the nursing home.

The stress of helping with aging family members is never easy, even in the best of circumstances.  Family members must cope with their own personal feelings of mortality, as well as the additional stress of providing both physical and emotional support to loved ones in this difficult time.  The attempt to absorb these additional responsibilities can be overwhelming.  Often, these hard working people are forced to reach out for help to assist with the care of their elderly or disabled relatives.  They may turn to places like a nursing facility, where they are told trained and skilled professionals are available around the clock, seven days per week, to monitor and care for their family members.

Unfortunately, the truth may be the facility is inadequately staffed, exposing the residents to dangerous conditions and failing to correct deficiencies from past inspections. Even if the facility is properly staffed, at least according to state minimum standards, that does not necessarily mean the residents are in good hands.  Some facilities fail to properly conduct background checks of the staff or volunteers, which could place residents at risk of assault or sexual abuse.  Moreover, the staff may not have the necessary training and/or education to properly care for and monitor the residents.

Some facilities may have old and broken down equipment, such as beds that fail to adjust for comfort, broken air conditioning units or furnaces, and inadequate or faulty plumbing. These are just some basic examples of nursing home negligence.  More complex problems include broken medical equipment such as therapeutic whirlpools, special lifts to transfer larger or paralyzed residents, and wheelchairs that are in need of repairs or replacement.  Often, most of these issues would not be seen by family members, even during visitation or inspection.

In most states, nursing facilities are inspected and certified by the designated agency for their state.  This administrative agency is responsible for inspecting the facility to make sure they are providing adequate services and care to the residents.  If the state agency finds deficiencies in the facility conditions or services being provided, the facility usually is given a period of time to correct the problem areas.  When a facility fails to properly correct these deficiencies, they may be fined. In extreme cases, the facility may lose the certification and/or accreditation needed to operate.  Review of current and past inspection results, along with the corrections, may give insight as to how the nursing facility operates and responds to feedback.