How Safe is Your Mother’s Nursing Home?
Written by Bogutz and Gordon
Two recent articles in the Arizona Daily Star illustrate problems in the nursing home and rehabilitative care industry. In an August 20, 2010 article the Star (“Desert Life Rehabilitation & Care Center fined” 08/20/2010) detailed a fine of $4,500 that Desert Life Rehabilitation and Care Center was ordered to pay for failing to provide supervision to a resident who sustained second- and third-degree burns while smoking.
On August 21, 2010, the Star wrote of a $10,000 fine that Kindred Healthcare paid this summer for failing to follow its own policies and procedures on caring for and preventing pressure ulcers. In one case, a patient developed a pressure sore that grew so severe it required surgery to remove the coccyx bone, a state report says (“State fines nursing home Villa Campana”, by Stephanie Innes. 08/21/2010). (Desert Life and Villa Campana are both owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare.)
Problems with pressure sores (also known as “bed sores”) are often indicative of more serious problems at nursing facilities. If patients are not being properly turned to prevent sores, there may be other, even more serious problems with the facility that have gone undetected. For this reason, citations for pressure sores may often be a proxy for more serious issues.
How can you check on the nursing home that your loved ones are in? Nursing homes are required to make their latest state-inspection survey readily available to visitors. Southern Arizona residents were previously able to examine the public file on any home at the state’s long-term-care licensing office in Tucson, but in 2008 officials moved the files to Phoenix. They are now viewable solely at that office at 150 N. 18th Avenue on the fourth floor. Inspection records may also be viewed online at the web site of the Arizona Health Services Department’s office of long-term care at www.azcarecheck.com or www.azdhs.gov/als/ltc/index.htm. You may also call 602-364-2690.
Other states have similar resources. Additionally, you can find government ratings for nursing homes that accept Medicare/Medicaid at www.medicare.gov.
What if you want to report a violation? To file a complaint against a nursing home, call the Arizona Department of Health Services at 1-602-364-2536. If you suspect the facility or an employee of the facility of committing abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult, you may file a report with Arizona Adult Protective Services (APS) at 1-877-767-2385 (1-877-SOS-ADULT) or by filing an online report at www.azdes.gov/reportadultabuse.
Finally, if all else fails, you may need to take legal action against a skilled nursing facility or adult care home. To do that you would need to retain an attorney or law firm that specializes in cases of nursing home abuse and neglect. Although we do not practice in that area we know a number of excellent attorneys in that area and would be happy to make a referral. Please contact us if you need any additional information.