Long-term care researchers at the University of California San Francisco released a report today which offers a comprehensive analysis of the quality of care provided at for-profit nursing home nationwide. The gloomy finding should give pause to all those in our area who are seriously contemplating their long-term New York elder care needs. The researchers pointed to significant quality of care concerns at many nursing homes based mostly on poor nursing staff levels. The data was culled from a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s largest for-profit long-term care facilities. An article on the research was published for the first time in today’s Health Services Research and is being heralded as the first-ever study focused solely on quality at the nation’s ten largest for-profit nursing home chains–many local nursing facilities were included in the analysis.
The main take-away from the research is that the quality of care is low at many nursing homes but for-profit facilities have a particularly poor track record. Dr. Charlene Harrington, the lead researcher explained, “The top ten chains have a strategy of keeping labor costs low to increase profits. They are not making quality a priority.” In most cases the study found that quality deficiencies were tied to inadequate nursing levels. With fewer trained medical professionals providing close care to the facility residents, medical problems were more likely to go unnoticed and preventable complications were more prevalent.
This new research on for-profit nursing homes comes on the heels of changing business trends in the industry. While the largest nursing home companies were formerly publically traded, they have recently been purchased by private equity investment firms where investors sharing the profits (or losses). Many have raised concerns that this shift may incentivize significant cost-cutting which would harm the residents who live in these homes. This study–and several others–have found that those concerns may be apt, as many of these facilities have shed registered nursing staff members after being acquired by the private equity companies in an effort to trim payroll costs. As a result, these for-profit facilities have fewer staffing hours than non-profit and government run facilities. Not surprisingly, for-profit facilities were cited for 50% more serious care deficiencies by inspectors.
The sad reality is that many local seniors may end up in these chronically deficient homes, particularly when they have not conducted any elder care planning. The ten chains included in this study represent nearly 2,000 facilities nationwide, housing 13% of all nursing home residents. The New York elder law attorneys at our firm urge all residents to ensure they have quality options for long-term care by taking the time to plan for these affairs well before they are actually needed.
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