In these times when nursing home abuse and negligence is at an all-time high, it is very important to be armed with pertinent information when you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one. A recent article in U.S. News talks about those nursing homes that are rated as “Special Focus Facility.” The truth is there is nothing good or positive about the word “special” here. A Special Focus Facility is basically a nursing home with a history of negligence or consistently substandard results in health inspections – one that has been tagged for extra monitoring and inspections by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as the state where it operates. In other words, you want to stay away from these “special” nursing homes.
How does a nursing home gain this dubious status? It doesn’t happen with a single health deficiency. For a nursing home to be tagged it would have to have three serious problems at three consecutive inspections. If repeat inspections were necessary because the nursing home did not rectify the problem, that becomes a serious issue as well. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services there are about 135 nursing homes on this list. California has six of these homes. Officials say many more nursing homes should be on this list, but aren’t because the federal agency simply does not have the resources or the manpower to go after these homes and conduct these inspections.
The lack of resources at the federal level and state level here in California has been a huge problem. We’ve reported earlier that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took the axe to the state’s nursing home ombudsman program where volunteers go into these facilities and conduct random inspections; something the state health department does not have the resources to do anymore. But now, with this volunteer program also drastically cut, nursing homes are free to carry on business as usual. If they neglect their residents, understaff their facilities or do not maintain proper safety procedures, there are not many people watching them. A number of unsuspecting, vulnerable people suffer serious personal injury or even death as a result of such negligence. Of course, this is a frightening situation to be in, but we’re in it right now.
The best solution for consumers is to really do their research before entrusting their loved one to a nursing home. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform has a great Web site with useful pointers for consumers about what to look for in a nursing home. If you have been a victim of nursing home negligence or abuse please contact a nursing home negligence lawyer to get more information about your legal rights and options.