Investigation reveals challenges of choosing a safe CA nursing home

A recent report shows that some of the companies overseeing numerous California nursing homes suffer from systemic issues that may endanger patients.

Making the decision to entrust the care of an older loved one to others is never easy. For many people in San Francisco, preventing nursing home abuse or neglect by choosing the right facility is a top concern. In addition to checking reports regarding a specific home, many concerned families may think of reviewing the record of the company that operates the home. Unfortunately, a recent report indicates this may be difficult in California, which means nursing home patients may be left vulnerable to substandard care from companies with histories of treatment issues.

Troubling track records

California has about 1,260 nursing homes, and 25 large chains own roughly half of those, according to the Fresno Bee. It can be difficult for consumers and regulators alike to determine which company operates a given nursing home. Unfortunately, the Department of Public Health does not issue reports on a company or chain's overall quality of care or potential role in reported substandard care.

Unfortunately, many of the state's nursing home chains or companies may fall short on critical quality of care metrics. The Sacramento Bee reviewed data over 46 measures of nursing home performance, including complaints, staffing problems and overall patient health, and found that there were often consistent patterns between nursing homes operated by the same company. The following troubling findings are examples:

  • Above-average usage of patient restraints was attributed to about 65 percent of the facilities that one company owned.
  • High staff turnover rates were observed in 90 percent of one company's facilities.
  • Another company received two AA citations, which are the harshest citations that the state can issue, for fatal medication errors that occurred at two facilities over a two-year period. Collectively, the two facilities had received three other citations for the same mistake in recent years.

These findings suggest that nursing homes operated by certain companies may experience systematic issues, rather than isolated errors. Unfortunately, without stronger oversight of the companies that oversee nursing homes, it may be difficult for consumers to avoid these homes when deciding where to place their loved ones.

Protecting victims' rights

In many cases, the companies that operate nursing homes may be held liable for injuries that arise because of substandard care. Injuries resulting from inadequate medical care, intentional abuse or even the actions of other residents may be compensable, if victims can prove that the facility or staff failed to provide a reasonable standard of care.

People who suspect elder abuse is occurring at a nursing home can report the breach to various authorities, including the local Adult Protective Services agency or, if the abuse is causing immediate physical danger, the local police. People who suspect elder abuse may also want to meet with a personal injury attorney to discuss the available legal options. Since California law only allows victims of elder abuse two years from the date of injury to take legal action, considering the potential courses of action early can be beneficial.

Keywords: nursing home, abuse, neglect