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Beware of chain nursing homes

Written by Diane Archer

A Kaiser Health News analysis finds that nursing homes that outsource their services to “related organizations”–chain nursing homes that get their goods and services from companies their owners control–may pose serious risks to residents. If you are choosing a nursing home, be sure to check federal inspection, staffing, and quality records. And, make a point of looking at independent nursing homes, which generally offer far better conditions for their residents than chain nursing homes.

Keep in mind that nursing home chains that outsource to related organizations are likely to have higher ratios of patients to nurses and aides and more patient injuries and unsafe situations than independent nursing homes. Twice as many people complain about these conglomerates as they do about independent nursing homes. These nursing home chains spend much less money on patient care than their independent counterparts.

Jordan Rau writes in the New York Times about residents of these chain nursing homes who are left unattended and develop gangrene, go unwashed, and are left to sleep on urine-soaked sheets. The nursing homes generally do not have adequate staffing.

Chain nursing homes are the norm. More than 11,000 nursing homes–about three out of four of them–are part of a chain. In a large number of instances, a big chunk of their revenue goes to their owners, and little is left for staffing and other resident needs. Rau reports that rather than deliver appropriate care to its residents, Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center distributed 28 percent of its nursing home revenue to its two owners over eight years, $40 million of its $145 million in revenue.

Medicare provides star-ratings to nursing homes. But, five-star rated nursing homes do not mean they offer quality care. A lot of the data that Medicare collects on staffing levels and quality of care is self-reported. The Insured Patient Institute offers good independent information on the web sites that rate nursing homes in your community.

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