For several years now families faced with making a decision on finding a nursing home for their loved one in need of skilled care have used the CMS’ Nursing Home Compare website to assist in their decision making. The site provides consumers with information on nursing homes that are a participating and certified facility in Medicare and Medicaid. One key metric that is displayed is the staffing level at the facility which includes the number of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants. A recent probe by an independent agency found that the staffing data reported to the CMS for purposes of the site is over-inflated by a many as 80% of the facilities. Additionally, 25% of nursing homes nationwide listed staffing levels on the site that were double the actual staffing levels reported in their cost reports to Medicare. These staffing discrepancies leaves families with a false sense of assurance that their family member are being taken care of adequately.
The analysis, performed by the Center for Public Integrity, used the data publicly available on the Nursing Home Compare website to data from financial cost reports provided to Medicare from each facility. The website data available represents self-reported data on staffing levels during a two-week period before annual federal inspections. The debate is out on the extent that facilities actually know the date of their ‘unannounced’ survey inspection and subsequently ‘staff up’ for the visit. These shows of additional staffing lead to the data being skewed.
Nursing homes with poor staffing levels is not a new phenomenon, despite studies showing that the amount of care, especially by registered nurses, strongly correlates to the quality of care a resident receives. [ See How Indiana Laws Protect Nursing Homes that Neglect and Kill Patients – Part 3″ ] To improve the reporting, and possibly bring real change by exposing a facility’s under staffing issue, a transition from the self-reported data to that of payroll data was proposed and planned to be implemented by March 2012. However, the implementation has never been completed and may not yet for another two years as it was held up for funding. The result is that the data presented to families as a means of choice is unreliable. Only thirty-three states and Washington D.C. have laws which mandate a nursing home’s mandatory direct care staffing, yet the study found that hundreds of homes in theses states were found to have direct care staffing levels well lower than their state requirement. Indiana is not one of the states with any such requirement for a daily direct care staffing level.
Unfortunately, the problem of understaffing at a nursing home leaves residents with substandard care, often resulting in injury due to falls, dehydration, bowel obstructions, and pressure sores. If you have a loved one in the care of a nursing home, be diligent to check in on the care they are receiving. Ask regularly how many nurses will be attending to your loved one. If you suspect that a loved one has been neglected at a nursing home, contact our office today to receive a free consultation on how we can help you. Call us at 877-769-5377 or click below to contact us via email.