Why you (still) need to choose a nursing home very carefully

A recent state investigation into California’s oversight of nursing home quality contains some shocking details about how bad that oversight actually is. The State Auditor found, among other things, that:

  • As of April 2014, California’s Department of Public Health [which regulates nursing homes] had more than 10,000 open complaints and open incident reports, as well as almost 1,000 open complaints against individuals;

  • The department doesn’t even have accurate data about the status of investigations into complaints about individuals;

  • No formal policies or procedures exist to ensure prompt response to complaints;

  • Some regional offices close complaints by simply categorizing them as not requiring action;

  • Four district offices that the Auditor checked on had no way to track whether nursing homes that had been told to fix a problem were doing so, or submitting plans to do so, in a timely way.

One of those offices was in Santa Rosa, which oversees incidents and complaints against nursing homes in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Mendocino, Humboldt, Lake,  and Del Norte Counties. The Auditor noted:

“The Santa Rosa-Redwood Coast district office prioritized 102 open complaints and ERIs [reported incidents] related to facilities as immediate jeopardy—indicating a situation that poses a threat to an individual’s life or health. These complaints and ERIs had remained open for an average duration of almost a year.”

What can families do?

“It is imperative that we, the consumers, hold facilities and the regulatory agencies accountable. Most people think that the sad or bad stories won’t happen to them, but as we see an increased amount of elder abuse within facilities, the truth is that there is a very good chance that one of these awful stories could be yours,” says Aging Solutions’ CEO, Terri Abelar.

“If you have a loved one in a facility – don’t assume that everything is going to get done that they say is going to get done. Be alert, be aware, and know that when you’re not present, there are risks. Write to your legislators and join the efforts of CANHR [California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform] to keep the attention and the pressure on the people who are supposed to be keeping your mom or dad safe.”