At least government officials in Texas, Illinois and Iowa haven’t totally sold old to the big bucks of the nursing home industry (like some have in Kentucky and Indiana)!  Kudos go to three states that have recently made progress in terms of advancing the nursing home reform agenda.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), that state’s agency charged with oversight of the nursing home industry, recognized the urgent need for more investigators to address a backlog of complaints facilities.

DADS has a record of responding to 99 percent of the most serious complaints about nursing homes within 24 hours. But the agency has only been able to respond to one-third of the less serious complaints within the 14 days required by state guidelines. Still, a DADS spokesman acknowledged to the media recently that even “less serious” complaints included the potentially dangerous issue of inappropriate care of bed sores.

To speed response to nursing home complaints, 35 new investigators (a 10% increase) are being hired this month. The agency also plans to complete 1,550 investigations during a two-week statewide blitz to help catch up on the backlog of complaints until the new inspectors can be hired and trained.

Governor Pat Quinn recently received a final report that contains many recommendations to ensure improved safety of nursing home residents in Illinois. Among the Nursing Home Safety Task Force recommendations:

  • Reform the admissions and assessment of people in need of care to ensure they are referred to the residential setting most appropriate to their individual needs.
  • Raise and enforce higher standards of treatment in all residential settings.
  • Expand residential options and services in home and community-based settings to allow each individual to achieve his or her highest level of independent functioning and ensure that only those people who require 24-hour care are placed in nursing homes.

It’s now up to state legislators to translate report findings into new regulations for nursing homes located in Illinois.  So if you live in Illinois, please contact your state senator and state representative to make sure report findings are followed.

One of the big changes coming to Illinois nursing homes, thanks in part to the study report and pressure from the public and Chicago news media, is that thousands of mentally ill individuals who have been housed alongside elderly nursing home residents will now be given the opportunity to be placed in facilities more appropriate to meeting their unique needs. Tragically it took several incidents of elderly nursing home residents being beaten by mentally ill individuals before this problem (and other concerns) were addressed by the Governor’s study commission.

State nursing home regulators are finally getting serious about imposing stiff fines against Iowa facilities that have been found guilty of retaliating against caregivers who have the courage to report problems.

Two Iowa nursing homes have each been fined $5,000 by the Department of Inspections and Appeals. An assisted living center was also recently fined $1,000. The three facilities were accused of threatening, demoting or firing employees who reported concerns about resident care to the inspections department.

Iowa’s mandatory reporter law, which is designed to protect the state’s 40,000 care facility residents, makes it a crime for caregivers to keep silent about suspected abuse or neglect. Retaliation against whistle-blowers is barred by law, but advocates for seniors have complained that care facilities are rarely if ever penalized for the offense.

If I were living in Iowa I would contact the Department of Inspections and Appeals and demand that they be consistent in enforcing the laws already in place.  Sure, they are to be commended for finally taking appropriate action, but we have to wonder what took them so long?