The recent publication of a United States Senate Special Committee on Aging report released last week shed a troubling light on the state of nursing home inspections across the nation.
As Committee Chair Sen. Bob Casey stated, “The system responsible for ensuring that nursing homes meet health and safety standards is in crisis.”
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- State nursing home inspectors—who are in charge of making sure residents are well cared for, and nursing home safety standards are met—are severely understaffed nationwide.
- With a lack of inspectors, many nursing home facilities are left without supervision and face little accountability.
- Many complaints registered against nursing homes are being ignored—simply because there is no one there to investigate them.
- 31 states and Washington D.C. are short-staffed on inspectors by over 20%.
- 9 states are short-staffed by over 50%.
- The top three states with the lowest inspector staffing rates are:
- Kentucky (83% understaffed)
- Alabama (80% understaffed)
- Idaho (71% understaffed)
Why Nursing Home Inspections Matter
Nursing home inspections are an integral part of protecting elder and vulnerable adult rights, health, and safety.
Over one million individuals reside in nursing homes in the United States. These are the individuals most in need of protection, as nursing homes are facilities designed to provide focused care for those who are elderly, facing disability or illness, rehabilitating after injury, or who have specialized needs that cannot be met at home.
Nursing home inspections, therefore, are the standardized way we have to ensure residents are receiving the care they need and are not put in danger by a hazardous, unsanitary, negligent, or abusive environment. Inspections are also an important protective layer to deal with complaints, concerns, and critical issues that arise between facility administration and residents.
In short, nursing home inspections are fundamental to our ability to:
- Make sure nursing homes are meeting state and federal safety standards
- Investigate and handle complaints raised by residents, staff, or family members
- Offer solutions to problems in an effective and timely manner
- Prevent poor hiring practices that allow unqualified or dangerous individuals to serve on staff
- Verify that proper infection- and disease-control measures are in place
- Check staffing levels to make sure adequate staff-to-resident ratios are met
- Confirm that nurses, aides, and other staff members are qualified for the positions they hold
- Approve that the cleanliness and resources of facilities are satisfactory
- Handle other responsibilities vital to the health, safety, and wellbeing of residents
In areas like Louisville, Kentucky, we have an over-60 population of roughly 15%, but that percentage is expected to increase to over 40% by the year 2050. Much of this population of residents will eventually spend at least a portion of their older years in a nursing care facility.
With our state also experiencing the most severe nursing home inspection staffing shortage in the nation, there is good reason for concern about the future of our aging friends, neighbors, and family members here in Jefferson County.
Why Are Staffing Numbers for State Nursing Home Inspectors Inadequate?
There are a number of reasons why the national nursing home inspection system is currently facing so many challenges. There are changes that must be made at multiple levels of government to fix the existing crisis we’re suffering due to:
- Lack of federal funding for state inspection programs
- Poor oversight to safeguard the effective implementation of inspection programs
- Stressful, travel-heavy working conditions that prevent empty inspector positions from being filled
- Low pay that does not match the demands and long hours of the job
- Frequent turnover among nursing home staff inspector positions
- Influences of the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Long training periods for new inspectors (typically one to two years)
- The disregard of past data that has shown inspector understaffing to be a major issue for at least the past two decades
- A lack of action on the part of Congress—despite requests from Presidents Obama, Trump, and Biden—to increase financial and legislative support for state nursing home inspection programs, particularly proactive (rather than reactionary) ones
Help for Families Facing Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect in Kentucky
There are few things more painful and life-shattering than learning a loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect in their care facility. It’s for this reason that we at Thomas Law Offices dedicate a substantial portion of our legal careers to protecting the rights of Kentucky’s elder population.
Elder abuse is something that should never be allowed to happen. And we know there is a direct correlation between inadequate nursing home inspections and increased rates of abuse and neglect. When we see an issue putting residents lives in danger, we take action.
Please contact us by phone or here on our website if you believe someone you love is being abused in a negligent care facility. Our Louisville nursing home abuse lawyers can begin an investigation, notify the proper authorities, and keep your family member and other residents protected from the actions of an abuser or negligent staff.
There is no cost for a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney on our team.