The Five Star Quality Rating System
Skilled Nursing Facilities and other long-term care establishments are required to meet certain levels of staffing by the Federal government to help ensure a resident’s highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being. However, this does not mean that a nursing home cannot staff beyond these requirements—indeed if the needs of their residents require additional care then these facilities most certainly should provide more staff. As a means of illustrating a Skilled Nursing Home’s staffing levels to the public, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services utilizes a Five Star Rating System available online.
Boosting Ratings For Nursing Home Performance
Unfortunately, much of the determination of a nursing home’s star rating relies on self-reporting of data by the facility itself. This practice opens the door to underreporting by for-profit facilities in order to boost their rating while still cutting staff. According to a recent article by the Charlotte Sun, “more than 60 percent of nursing homes” in south-west Florida have lawsuits against them alleging neglect of their residents, despite many having star ratings of “average” or “above-average”. Niam Yaraghi, an assistant professor with the University of Connecticut School of Business, analogized the situation to self-reporting one’s taxes, stating, “Imagine having a tax code, and requiring people to file their taxes, without having the IRS to audit them. Most people would start underreporting their income and overreporting their expenses to avoid taxes, with no fear of being caught. We have the exact same system for nursing homes.”
Consequences of Self-Serving Stars
The consequences of understaffing a long-term care facility while self-reporting higher numbers is easily apparent. Residents suffer neglect by not receiving timely and necessary care and services they have entrusted the facility to provide them. Pressure ulcers from not being turned, dehydration and malnutrition from not being fed, and infection from being left in their own feces are common signs of neglect resulting from understaffing. At the same time, these corporations profit off this neglect by cutting their expenses.
What Should You Do?
When faced with the difficult situation of needing to place a loved-one in a long-term care facility, do not rely solely upon the facitily’s star rating. Instead, tour the facilities, talk with residents, read reviews from numerous sources, make unexpected visits to witness staffing levels, and attempt to get a better overall picture of the nursing home. Lastly, if you ever suspect a family member to be a victim of abuse or neglect, immediately reach out to an attorney’s office that specializes in holding self-serving facilities accountable.
Eric J. Hertz, P.C.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers