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Public vs. Private Nursing Homes—Comparing Care

Our Illinois nursing home attorneys know that making the decision to have a loved one enter a long-term care facility is a heart-wrenching process. The vast majority of seniors would prefer to live in their own homes for as long as possible. However, life often gets in the way and proper safety demands that the senior live in a place where there are caregivers close by at all times to ensure that assistance is available at a moment’s notice. Yet, even after deciding that a nursing home is the right choice, a family often faces significant difficulties deciding which home is best. Without question, the proximity of the facility to loved ones and services available at the homes are usually the most important considerations. Financial issues may also be involved depending on whether public programs are being used to help support payment.

One general question that families often ask involves comparisons of care between public nursing homes and for-profit homes. In our area, many families are interested in determining which type of homes are the site of more Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse. Obviously ensuring that an elder loved one will not fall victim to the mistreatment that is prevalent at these facilities is a key concern. Fortunately, research on the overall care differences between public and private homes was conducting just this summer by the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The results are instructive to all families deciding which facility to send their loved one. Overall, the GAO report found that private investment firms and for-profit firms were cited for more caregiving deficiencies than their public home/non-profit counterparts. That difference was seen when looking at all types of deficiencies, including those involving the most serious instances of nursing home neglect. Serious harm was defined as caregiving problems that resulted in actual physical or mental problems for the residents beyond a mere increased risk of harm.

The GAO report also provides some data which explains some reasons for the poorer care provided at for-profit home. Our Illinois personal injury attorneys were not surprised to find that those problems stem back to the profit-motive. For example, private investment homes had lower nursing staff ratios when compared with non-profit homes. Having a more robust nursing staff is better for caregiving purposes, but they require more resources. For-profit homes obviously have incentive to keep those expenses as low as possible to increase their own profit margins.

This GAO report and much similar research provide important perspective for all local families making a nursing home decision. While all private homes should not be considered off-limits, it is important to look very closely at a for-profit facility’s caregiving track-record to ensure it provides a level of care that your loved one deserves. No matter where your senior ends up, it will be necessary to provide close and careful observation to the care that they receive. Mistreatment and abuse can occur in virtually all settings, as it only takes one errant employee or one understaffed moment to lead to serious and irreversible harm.

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New Way to Support Nursing Home Laws

Pilot Program Seeks to Improve Troubled Nursing Homes in Illinois