If you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break a few eggs—even if those eggs are old people who die from bedsores that have become infected. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say that on average, patients at nursing homes that are bought by private investment firms do worse than those at other nursing homes, with higher rates of depression, increased loss of mobility, and less ability to dress and bathe themselves. The New York Times has a horror story on 48 Florida nursing homes where staff was reduced to levels below mandatory requirements and didn’t repair equipment or keep facilities sanitary. Even senior activities were reduced. And there are thousands of (now profitable) nursing homes across the country that are owned by private investment companies.
Says the Times article,
The typical nursing home acquired by a large investment company before 2006 scored worse than national rates in 12 of 14 indicators that regulators use to track ailments of long-term residents. Those ailments include bedsores and easily preventable infections, as well as the need to be restrained.
One problem is that private investment companies create such “Byzantine” corporate structures that it’s hard to track whether or not they’re meeting requirements, much less know who to sue if you feel your loved one suffered from—or worse, died from—neglect. By contrast, publicly owned nursing homes are required to disclose such information.
As the Baby Boom generation ages, nursing homes have become a sure-fire business investment, if you can cut costs and avoid bank-busting litigation. At the present, not much can be done to prevent or reign in the problem. Consumer advocacy group The National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform offers a Fact Sheet that can help you choose the best nursing home—including how to use the data provided by Medicare to evaluate nursing homes in your area.
“More Profit and Less Nursing at Many Homes” [New York Times]