I don’t think it is a secret that there are two huge problems in nursing homes. The first problem is abuse against nursing home residents. The second problem is neglect of nursing home residents. Nursing home staff and volunteers fail to report these crimes too often. The government has noticed. It is attempting to increase reporting by expanding its ability to fine not reporting the crime.
The first step in fighting abuse and neglect in a nursing home is reporting it. When a person sees a vulnerable elder being abused or neglected and doesn’t say anything, then the abuse will likely continue. The government attempted to address this before. Years ago they enacted Section 1150B that required reporting of crimes against nursing home residents. So why is this coming up again? Loopholes. That is why.
Buildings Don’t Have Eyes
The government could only fine nursing homes under the current 1150B. This limitation created a gap. The government could only fine the nursing home, but the nursing home doesn’t have eyes to see and report crime. The existing rule did not apply to individuals such as nursing home staff or volunteers. The result was the people most likely to witness a crime were free to turn a blind eye and let the crime continue. Perhaps they were afraid for their job or didn’t want to get involved for whatever reason.
But People Do
Thankfully, that is going to change. The government has begun the process of expanding the penalties available for failing to report a crime against a nursing home resident. Once this process is complete, the government will be able to fine individual nursing home staff or volunteers. The fines can be up to $200,000 for failing to report a crime against a resident. Just maybe this will give our elders some protection.
This is by no means perfect. I would prefer the government direct more resources into inspections and enforcement. Taking those steps may have a more widespread impact on protecting our elders. On the other hand, the more eyes we have watching for elder abuse the more likely it is to be addressed rather than ignored.
Does Medicaid Increase Abuse and Neglect?
Many people ask or believe that nursing homes treat residents on Medicaid differently than their private pay residents. I haven’t seen any basis for this belief. Within the nursing home you will find Medicaid residents and non Medicaid residents inter-mixed with no distinction. They all receive the same level of care, the only difference is who pays for it. Since the abuse and neglect problem affects Medicaid and private pay residents, let’s work to increase the quality of care for everyone.