If you are thinking that the time or circumstances are such that residential or nursing home care is the right option for you or for a loved one, you should be aware of and investigate the quality of care that any particular nursing home facility provides. A major concern of yours should be whether the nursing homes you are considering are Special Focus Nursing Homes (SFF facilities). These are homes that have been targeted for improvement due to documented and extensive quality of care violations.

SFF refers to a program begun in 1998 under the auspices of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or CMS. About 97% of all nursing homes in the U.S. rely extensively on Medicare funding so these facilities must be certified to become eligible for Medicare funds.

Studies and surveys indicate that two-thirds of all nursing homes are deficient to some degree or have been cited for various violations such as understaffing, hygiene concerns, or prevalence of injuries and accidents to residents. However, some facilities are more deficient than others and are labeled as SFF if they meet certain criteria:

  • Have twice the average number of deficiencies or problems than other nursing homes
  • Experience more serious problems than other nursing homes such as number of accidents and injuries suffered by residents
  • Have serious problems that have not been corrected or are persistent and have not shown steps toward improvement over a 3-year period before placed on the SFF list

SFF nursing homes are given an opportunity to improve and to be removed from the list. CMS will send survey teams twice annually to inspect the homes to determine if the problems are being addressed. Homes can be fined or their funding from Medicare and Medicaid terminated, which is a death sentence for these facilities. Outcomes following an inspection are:

  1. If significant improvements to quality of care are made and up to standard, the SFF tag is removed
  2. More time will be extended if the survey team observes concrete evidence of steps toward improvement such as procuring additional outside funding, hiring more trained staff, purchasing new and higher quality assistive devices and other equipment, and reduction in number of accidents and injuries. If the facility is sold to a buyer with a proven record of maintaining other nursing home facilities with quality care, then the home will be given a reprieve and time to improve.
  3. Termination of Medicare and Medicaid funds if no progress has been made and there is little likelihood that improvements are forthcoming

This program has not been without some controversy. For instance, the CMS provides a 5-star rating system for nursing homes in 3 categories that has been criticized for allowing homes to self-report data for 2 of these: staffing and quality of resident care. Instead, you should focus on independent reporting from CMS survey teams to gather a more accurate portrait of the quality of the facility.

You should also visit the facility and talk to the administrators, staff, and residents or their families. Ask to see the latest inspection or survey results from CMS. There is also a website, Nursing Home Compare, where you can research the home to see what deficiencies the home has been cited for. Should the home be a SFF, seriously consider looking elsewhere.

Liability of Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have a duty of care toward its residents and must meet state and federal standards or they risk fines and loss of Medicaid and Medicare funding. Accidents do happen in nursing homes, especially falls, but many are preventable and are the result of under-trained or overworked staff, improper administration of drugs, inappropriate use of restraints, and failure to provide medical care.

A nursing home abuse lawyer can investigate the circumstances of an accident injury that is suspicious. Signs of negligent care that you can observe include:

  • Bruising on the body and in intimate areas
  • Bedsores
  • Restraint marks on the resident
  • Change in mood and behavior of the resident, increased depression and isolation
  • A resident who displays fear when a staff member appears
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Fractures
  • Rapid weight loss or gain

Your nursing home abuse lawyer can gather medical records, take photographs, have doctors examine your loved one, interview witnesses and residents, and review inspections of the facility. If necessary, a claim for damages can be made and litigation may ensue if no resolution is reached.

Retain Tetzel Law

Paul Tetzel is a nursing home abuse lawyer who has investigated and handled numerous claims of nursing home abuse to successful conclusions. Find out why so many clients return to him or refer their friends and relatives to Mr. Tetzel and how he can help you or your loved one achieve the results you deserve. Call his office at (617) 933-3858.