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  • Writer's pictureAleezeh Hasan

How changes in policies around nursing homes impact residents

If you are looking into nursing homes for an elderly parent, be aware of how policy has shifted in recent years.

Under the current administration, there are two major changes that have affected nursing homes.

Fines have decreased.

As of early 2019, nursing homes mistreating patients are not punished as much as they have been in the past. Ultimately, this means that facilities may not give good quality care to their patients because they do not need to be worried about losing large sums of money.

The main difference between the current policy and the previous one is that fines were taken more frequently in the past, arguably holding the facilities more accountable for mistakes. Now, there is a cap put on the amount of dollars that the government can take from a facility and if the facility doesn’t argue with the punishment, they will get a 35% discount.

The requirements behind fining have also loosened. Inspectors do not have to report a fine unless there are immediate serious consequences. While this may sound okay, it means that smaller issues, that take time to become serious, will not be stopped. E.g. the spread of diseases due to lack of cleanliness.

The shifts in policy could lead to resident mistreatment, more sicknesses and patients living in a state of fear.

Arbitration practices have changed.

Upon admission to a nursing home, the patient and the patient’s family must fill out paperwork. A previously banned part of these agreements has become allowed again. Basically, a patient will sign a form that does not allow them to sue the nursing home for mistreatment. In some cases, patients have gotten seriously ill, but did not receive justice. The arbitration agreement forces the victim of mistreatment to handle the issue privately, outside of court.

Despite the federal government’s preferences, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is requiring that nursing homes inform patients that they do not need to sign the arbitration agreement, even if they have one. Some may still sign the paper, considering that nursing home residents tend to be vulnerable and easily manipulated.

Knowing your rights and understanding how these changes can lead to negative treatment may be the best way to prevent a serious future issue. Make sure you are aware of what you have signed off on and explain it to your parent as well. Read through every agreement you or your parent needs to sign. Taking the time to look through the papers and to even write down questions on what seems unclear is a good way to prevent missing anything.

Both changes have led to problems for the residents in these facilities. Taking the time to research policies around nursing homes before signing papers can save a lot of distress later.

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