Changing the Beat
By Richard L. Peck, Editor
Recently I was asked by a popular national magazine to guide them on a story they wanted to do on “The Worst Nursing Homes in America.” (I tried to guide them in a more responsible direction.) That same evening my mother told me over the phone that the only nursing homes she knows about are the ones she reads about in the paper because they’ve been accused of resident abuse.
And the beat goes on.

Recent weeks have seen:

  • issuance of a congressional study indicating that states hit nursing homes with 25,000 quality-of-care violations within a 15-month period, with more than 2,700 facilities accused of causing actual harm or immediate jeopardy;
  • release of a General Accounting Office study of resident abuse policies in three states describing, among other problems, sluggish prosecution by local, state and federal officials, and lagging preventive efforts; and
  • introduction of federal legislation creating a national registry of abusive long-term care workers-something that nursing home organizations have advocated for years.

And the beat goes on and on.

The fact is, there is little that nursing homes can do about government foot dragging or the grindingly slow wheels of justice. Federal and state legislators have their work cut out for them in devising and paying for prosecution and prevention systems that work, not to mention addressing the broader question of responsible long-term care financing. But there is one aspect of this that nursing home providers can control: attacking resident abuse with everything they have, regardless of possible consequences.

That means aggressively pursuing it whenever it occurs and seeing to it that the violators are punished. Providers might even go farther and, as the facility described in our “Not-for-Profit Report” did (p. 27), set up collaborative relationships with agencies throughout their communities to expedite prosecution and prevention.

As all facilities should know by now, there is no excuse for attempting to hide abuse incidents or forestall their investigation. Nothing good can come of it-as today’s Catholic church hierarchy will attest. NH

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