Despite the passage of the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987, poor care in nursing homes is still extremely common. Consumer Reports recently investigated the industry and reported that nursing home abuse and neglect is most persistent in the for-profit nursing home chains.
When nursing homes are found to be out of compliance or deficient, states are required to refer case information to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, for enforcement action. However, CMS has been slow to act, so state law enforcement agencies have recently begun cracking down on nursing home abuse and neglect of patients with some evidence of successful enforcement.
For example, in January of 2006, the Attorney General of New York announced the arrest of 19 employees at two nursing homes where hidden cameras produced evidence of serious patient neglect. The court filings indicated that the staff would move call bells away from residents so that they could socialize, sleep, watch movies, or leave the building. Another court filing indicated that a camera revealed staff repeatedly failing to provide care or treatment then falsifying records to report that the treatments were administered.
It has been almost 20 years since the passage of the Act, but nursing home abuse and neglect is still systemic. Local and national governments need to revitalize enforcement and send a message to all nursing homes that such mistreatment of residents will not be tolerated.