The United States of America is speckled with 15,600 different nursing home facilities, and no two are the same. From rural and urban to nonprofit, for-profit, and government-run nursing homes, the quality of care offered is anything but consistent. Underfunded nursing homes have long been notorious for providing substandard care, while for-profit locations cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide immaculate care for the wealthiest among us.
But there is good news on the horizon. The country’s 1.4 million nursing home residents have just received extra protections from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ broad revision to nursing home regulations. According to Katie Goodrich, the center’s CMO, “These are the first comprehensive updates to long-term care requirements since 1991.”
Main Components of the Revisions
First, the new regulations give residents more control over decisions like receiving visitors anytime, choosing their roommates, and eating meals and snacks anytime. This improvement in a focus on person-centered care has pleased many people who advocate more welcoming nursing home environments. These new rules also require nursing homes to take “reasonable care” of the personal belongings of residents; waivers can no longer excuse staff from worrying about missing or damaged items.
Furthermore, more training will need to be implemented to help nursing home staff better understand elder abuse and learn to prevent it. This applies especially to dementia patients, which is a major victory given that the majority of Medicare patients have moderate to severe dementia. Protections are also written into the regulations to stop patients being bounced from different nursing homes and hospitals as they receive different levels of care.
Still More Work to Do
Sadly, the government did not incorporate specific staff ratios or minimum hours of care into the new rules. This has left nursing home advocates angry over the missed opportunity to improve care based on data that indicates better staffing equates to improved quality of care.
New regulations will go into effect over the next two years, at which point implementation and efficiency will need to be evaluated. With any luck, these new rules will help improve the lives of countless nursing home residents.