The nursing home chain, Extendicare, which owns 150 nursing homes in 11 states including 15 facilities in Washington, has agreed to pay $38 million to resolve federal claims that it inappropriately billed Medicare and Medicaid for substandard care and unnecessary therapy.
A federal investigation found that the company failed to provide appropriate care, follow safety protocols or maintain enough skilled nurses resulting in patients with head injuries, falls, bed sores, fractures, malnutrition, dehydration and infection. Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery likened the performance of the company to elder exploitation.
Under the settlement, Extendicare will have to maintain an internal audit program, submit to annual independent reviews and retain an independent monitor.
The company has denied any wrong doing. Read more about the case here.
Caring for an elderly family member who requires more and more care is a lot of work and sometimes circumstances makes it difficult to see options beyond a nursing home. Be advised though that placing a family member in a nursing home is a full-time job requiring advocacy and oversight. You cannot “place them and forget them” because even the best care facilities are cost conscious and that can place your family member at risk of injury or death when they don’t get the proper care and oversight.
Hiring a geriatric care manager can make that job easier. Not only do they have insight on the care each facility provides but they have experience with a situation that you are likely experiencing for the first time. Remember that if you have made the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, that decision already suggests that your loved one is vulnerable.
Try not to come to the conclusion that your loved one needs nursing home care as the first, best and only decision possible. Before making a decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, a geriatric care manager can perform an assessment of his or her needs. It may be that local resources can allow you to postpone a placement decision for months or years or it may be that the level of care you feel is necessary can be found in other care settings and a geriatric care manager will be aware of those resources.
Nursing homes are the most expensive care option but they aren’t necessarily the best care option for everyone. Give yourself some time to make sure it’s the right decision and then take the time and effort necessary to make sure that where you’ve placed your loved one is a good match for them. While a nursing home frees up the time you would be providing hands on care, it increases the amount of time you need to spend overseeing the care someone else provides. Keep an eye out for bedsores, bruises and other signs of neglect but also pay attention to what your instincts say about the care level in the facility. If the smell of urine or feces is overpowering, the facility probably doesn’t have enough staff to keep up with the care needs of the residents. Take the time to visit the facility at odd hours. Notice how the staff interacts with the residents and pay attention to whether residents seem to be ignored when they call for help.
Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home can be heartbreaking but it doesn’t need to be if the additional care provided in a facility will enhance your loved one’s life. Remember that making use of a nursing home is essentially the financial equivalent of choosing to purchase a median priced home in the United States. Take the time and care to investigate your options. Hire professionals to make sure that the decision you make is the best possible outcome for both you and your loved one. And finally, recognize that settling a loved one in a nursing home is the beginning of the experience rather than the end.