Many advocates working to improve the care of local seniors and eliminate nursing home neglect have questioned the care provided at many for-profit facilities. The consistent conflict between prioritizing patient care and maximizing profit is undeniable. Unfortunately, a new University of California San Francisco study published yesterday by Health Services Research has found that those concerns are likely warranted. The research examined care at the ten largest nursing home chains in the country. It was the first ever study examining this specific group, and the results are depressing. The track-record for all nursing homes was not impressive, but the care provided by for-profit facilities was found to be particularly poor. It should give all those who have a loved one in one of these homes pause. If caregivers themselves are not prioritizing resident well-being, it falls to outside friends, family members, and elder care advocates to ensure that nursing home abuse and neglect does not persist.
The team of researchers found that the poor scores on various quality of care measures were most directly attributed to decreases in nursing staff levels at many of these homes. One of the individuals in charge of the efforts explained her belief that the drive for profits incentivizes these homes to keep labor costs low. That is usually accomplished by shrinking the nursing staff—nurses’ salaries are larger than assistants. However, by prioritizing reduction in costs, quality of care for residents suffers. It does not take detailed analysis to understand that when there are less trained professionals providing close and consistent care to each resident, there is an increased likelihood of health problems going unnoticed. Resident health can suffer when preventable problems are caught too late because nurses are spending less time with these residents that necessary or reasonable.
These findings related to the problematic care at for-profit homes is validation of the fears that many advocates have echoed following the reorganization of many nursing home businesses. In the past, the largest homes were publically traded companies. However, many of them went bankrupt, and lately most of these chains have been bought by private equity companies. These private equity companies pool money from investors who then share in the profits or in the losses. These firm managers therefore have significant pressures to do anything necessary to make money for those investors. Making money requires profit maximization at the homes, which lead to staffing cuts. This is often profitable for those wealthy owners, but it frequently results in nursing home neglect for those vulnerable seniors at the facilities.
Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers have joined in the call questioning these tactics. Unfortunately, this latest research has validated many of those concerns. These for-profit homes have been found with nearly 50% more serious deficiencies than at comparable non-profit and government-run nursing homes. These discrepancies were likely caused in large part by significant differences in total nursing staff hour between these different types of homes. Many local residents are affected by these problems. The ten chains involved in this study alone account for over 2,000 facilities which includes 13% of the entire national nursing home population. That means tens of thousands of seniors are hurt each and every year because of a failure to prioritize their basic well-being by those charged with that task.
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