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article imageBush Lawsuit Restrictions Add to Grandma's Risk in Nursing Homes

By Carol Forsloff     Mar 1, 2009 in Lifestyle
She was found on a bed without covers, lying on a plastic mattress in winter time wearing only a thin hospital gown. She was ill in a nursing home. Attendants walked past the room and did nothing.
The family removed their mother from the nursing home, but many elders are left in those situations with little recourse if they don't have solid evidence from inspections.
The recourses possible for neglected or abused in nursing homes were reduced just before President Bush left office, when he signed a bill allowing state inspectors to be considered federal employees that could be restricted from giving testimony in court. It means violations have less possibility of being backed up by evidence inspectors could give.
Not many people, given a choice, look forward to spending their last days in a nursing home. But if they do, they want to make sure they are cared for well. With new rules put in place by Bush, just before leaving office, seniors who have been mistreated will have reduced access to proving it. The consequences means the problems related to poor treatment of seniors in nursing homes may not be revealed for lack of needed evidence.
The story didn't hit front pages, perhaps because Grandma and Grandpa are hidden away. Nursing homes aren't part of what people worry about daily, it seems, given what is in the headlines. Problems are reported if there is something dramatic like a nurse killing numbers of patients. The problem becomes acute when it is reported that nurses killing patients has enough prominence to be considered an outbreak.
The dramatic effect of inspectors not testifying is revealed by the fact that they are the ones who track the number and frequency of abuses. Representative Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told CBS that 5,283 nursing homes were cited for abuse violations, according to a review of state inspection records he had requested.with nearly 9,000 abuse violations from January 1999 to January 2001.
Part of this problem has to do with the regulations involved in nursing home care that allows for the dependence of nursing homes upon entitlement programs with lax regulatory codes. Thus the homes are involved with the financial stability as opposed to quality care. This becomes the consequence of the fixed per-diem rate paid by Medicaid for nursing home care, so that the owners of nursing homes can consequently fill up their beds with Medicaid recipients while at the same time spending as little as possible to provide for their care. Wages of those who work in nursing homes as nursing assistants or caregivers and attendants very little compared with other workers in the health care industry, an average of $11.32/hour for nursing assistants. They are often over-burdened with work and often have little incentive for quality work, although most are likely sympathetic to patient needs. Many of them report abuse of patients.
It appears grandma and grandpa need advocacy, given these facts; and one should wonder why this important story about former President Bush's act of restricting testimonies of inspectors was not given more exposure in the major headlines.
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