Nursing home violations

Nursing home violations

September 4th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

If you have a loved one, someone you care about, or if you are approaching that time when you may have to select a care home to effectively and humanely see you through your later years, this item is relevant.

If not, well, clip and hang on to it until you do. Aging has that way of creeping (or more likely, racing) up on all of us who live long enough.

It's difficult -- at best -- for many folks to choose a capable and caring nursing home when they need it. Ones that look pretty and neat sometimes can have the worst records of care. But, man, is choosing a good one an important decision, especially here in Tennessee with some of the dubious history we have enjoyed over the years.

Thankfully, the Pulitzer Prizewinning investigative newsroom known as ProPublica has generated an Internet application, Nursing Home Inspect, to help make this decision much easier. The database this group has perfected greatly simplifies the process of reviewing nursing-home inspection reports compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The application is simple to find on any Internet search engine under "Nursing Home Inspect ProPublica."

While the federal government also has an official website for nursing homes, ProPublica's new interactive application allows anyone with a computer to search every report using any keyword (such as injuries, deaths or rapes) to reveal whether a nursing home has been cited for such violations and, if so, how many times.

The site can be searched for specific nursing homes in any state and the severity of violations as well as other noted deficiencies. ProPublica notes that having the reports searchable online helps identify problematic trends and encourages homes to make needed fixes faster.

As you might suspect, and sadly enough, ProPublica's findings rank Tennessee as the state with the ninth highest number of serious nursing home violations. Texas has the dubious distinction as the state with the most violations, followed in order by New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky and South Carolina. We can do better. Nursing home patients deserve much better.

Today, ProPublica's database lists nearly 118,000 deficiencies cited during government inspections at 14,565 nursing homes across the country. And regular updates will be posted as they are available. Until recently, you had to file a formal Freedom of Information Act request to see this data, or visit in person, because nursing homes are required by law to make them available, says ProPublica.