For many, a nursing home is the option of last resort and too many families are forced to quickly chose where to place their loved after an emergency arises. With Medicare (for a defined period) and Medicaid programs providing the primary funding for the care for 1.4 million ailing seniors, taxpayers should demand that these for-profit institutions live up to the federal regulation that requires them to provide "services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being" possible for each of its patients.
Federal rules did change last year as our government did its best to place more control in the hands of nursing home residents. Seemingly simple these like when you see visitors, who you share your rooms with, what you eat, and most importantly, when you can be discharged are all part of the overhaul in regulations that occurred. One needed change that was not made however was the dire need for staffing increases. Currently, there is no requirement for a nurse to be on-site 24 hours per day nor are regulated hours for how often doctors must visit the facility. According to Lori Smetanka, the executive director of the National Consumer Voice of Quality Long-Term Care, " whenever you see a concern or problem in the nursing home, you can generally, trace it back to inadequate staffing standards". She is quick to warn families that "until we fix that as a problem, we'll not be able to improve the quality of care."
There are some initiatives on the horizon, however. One project, OPTIMISTIC, is spending $30 million dollars to track over eight years the impact of placing additional nurses in 19 long-term care facilities. Their task will be to specifically coordinate the patient care to reduce the number of hospitalizations required. After all, the worst place for a sick person to be in a hospital.
Reference: AARP Bulletin, (November 2017), "What you need to know about American's Nursing Homes"