Regulations for Nursing Homes Relaxed Under Current Administration, Putting Patients at Risk of Elder Abuse
Do you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home in New York or elsewhere in the U.S. that is vulnerable to neglect and abuse including falls, bedsores, infections, and death? It is important to know that a shift is taking place in terms of nursing home accountability for nursing home abuse and neglect. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “the Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or put them in grave risk of injury.” This “shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols” occurred after representatives from the nursing home industry lobbied the current administration.
The primary nursing home industry trade group, the American Health Care Association, directly lobbied Trump to relax the ways in which nursing homes are investigated and fines are assessed. Specifically, the group “complained that under President Barack Obama, federal inspectors focused excessively on catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve.” The president of the group, Mark Parkinson, wrote a letter urging President Trump to give “relief” to nursing homes. However, with alleged relief to nursing homes comes risk to the safety of elderly nursing home residents.
Between 2013 and 2017, about 40% of all nursing homes that are subject to federal regulations, or about 6,500 facilities, have received at least one citation for a “serious violation,” according to federal records. In addition, approximately two-thirds of those facilities have been fined directly by Medicare. What are some of the serious nursing home abuse violations for which these nursing homes have been cited? The article reports on the following violations:
- Preventable accidents, including falls;
- Nursing home neglect;
- Elder mistreatment; and
What is likely to change with the new guidelines? Nursing homes are likely to see lower fines for elder abuse violations, and some facilities that are first-time offenders—even when the offenses result in a patient’s death—may not be fined at all. Elder safety advocates continue to voice concerns about how the relaxing of regulations will negatively impact seniors in facilities in New York and across the country.
New York Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
Why do we need to ensure that nursing homes are held accountable for violations? A recent report from City & State New York notes that elder mistreatment remains “highly prevalent” in nursing homes throughout New York City, and that many instances of abuse go unreported. That report, along with a study from the New York City Department for the Aging, provides some of the following facts and figures:
- Verbal abuse is the most common form of nursing home abuse in New York City, and about 16% of all seniors in facilities have been subject to verbal abuse at least once;
- Nearly 30% of reported nursing home abuse incidents involve physical abuse, including hitting and/or pushing an elderly resident;
- Physical abuse affects more than 5% of all seniors in New York nursing homes;
- About 27% of reported abuse incidents involve elder sexual abuse;
- Sexual abuse accounts for just over 1 percent of all nursing home abuse cases;
- In total, more than 20% of elderly residents in nursing homes have experienced some form of abuse;
- The elder abuse incidence rate in New York State is almost “24 times greater than the number of cases referred to social service, law enforcement, or legal authorities who have the capacity as well as the responsibility to assist older adults” (meaning that a very high number of cases are not properly reported); and
- In the last year alone, approximately 260,000 elderly New Yorkers are likely to have been victims of at least one form of elder abuse.
If you have questions about filing an elder abuse claim, you should speak with a nursing home abuse attorney to determine your loved one’s rights.