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Are Skilled Nursing Facilities Failing Elderly Patients?

Over a one-month period of time in 2011, there were 1,538 elderly patient deaths within skilled nursing home facilities. This is but one heart-wrenching statistic reported in a new study released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While it is a fact that many nursing home residents pass away. The question is how many of these were premature deaths?

An estimated 32,519 nursing home patients suffered from harm during that same month. What is the reason for the elderly patient’s deaths and harm? Poor care within the facilities makes up a significant portion of patient injuries.

This important HHS report analyzed medical records of 653 Medicare beneficiaries admitted to skilled nursing facilities in August 2011 for stays of 35 days or less.

In the report, HHS gave the following definition for the adverse event:

“An event leading to a prolonged stay in the facility, transfer to a hospital, permanent harm, life-sustaining intervention, or death.”

22 percent of the patients studied suffered adverse events and 11 percent suffered temporary harm. There are varying degrees of danger in the adverse events reported. 14 percent of the patients suffering from an adverse event required intervention to sustain their life. Shockingly, 59 percent of the combined adverse events and temporary harm instances were labeled “clearly or likely preventable.”

There were different causes for the adverse events leading to prolonged facility stays. The report divided adverse events among residents into 3 categories: events related to medication (37%), events related to resident care (37%), and events related to infection (26%). 66 percent of the events related to medication were clearly preventable.

Over half of the residents experiencing harm returned to the hospital, an estimated $208 million dollar expense for Medicare for the one-month period studied.

What are the reasons behind preventable harm in nursing homes? The study named 3 likely culprits.

  1. Substandard treatment
  2. Inadequate resident monitoring
  3. Failure or delay of necessary care

At Harvey L. Walner & Associates we continue to impress the importance of being watchful over your elderly loved one. Contact us today to learn about elderly patient rights and signs of nursing home abuse and neglect. Your loved one’s wellbeing may depend on it.


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