Anyone thinking of entering a nursing home, or who has a family member about to do so, might do well to read the results of a brand new study. File this under health tips…of a different nature. Researchers found a lower quality of care among homes that operate for profit.
This would significantly lower care among the United States’ largest for-profit nursing homes, compared to non-profit and government-owned homes. Punctuating the results is the lack of staff nurses across the board. The news comes from the first-ever study to focus on staffing and quality at the 10 largest for-profit chains.
(Be sure to help yourself age gracefully by avoiding hip fractures: How to Protect Yourself from Hip Fractures.)
What happens is that the top-10 chains need to keep labor costs low in order to boost profits. Therefore, quality becomes less of a priority, according to the study. Low nurse staffing levels are considered the strongest predictor of poor nursing home quality.
The big 10 operate about 2,000 nursing homes across the country, which represents about 13% of all nursing home beds. Recently, they have been expanding. Many chains were traded on the stock market until early last decade when five large chains filed for bankruptcy. So, after restructuring and leadership changes, and increases in Medicare payments, the big chains gained some stability. And, lately, several of them have been purchased by private equity investment firms.
The 10 largest for-profit chains were cited for 36% more deficiencies and 41% more serious deficiencies than the best facilities. These include failure to prevent pressure sores, resident weight loss, falls, infections, resident mistreatment, and poor sanitary conditions. Plus, after the investment firms acquired them, large chains had more deficiencies than they did previously.
The 10 largest chains were selected because they are influential in the nursing home industry and are the most successful in terms of growth and market share. And the researchers suggest that Medicare cuts could further mean nursing home residents don’t get optimal care, as staffing and wages may be cut further to compensate.
From 2003 to 2008, the chains had fewer nurse “staffing hours” than non-profit and government nursing homes. Together, these companies had the sickest residents — despite their total nursing hours being 30% lower than non-profit and government homes. The top for-profit chains operated below the minimum nurse staffing recommended by experts.
A lot of serious thought should go into selecting a nursing home, for obvious reasons.