By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In one Brooklyn nursing home, equipment, dining chairs, walls and floor tiles are dirty and in disrepair. Wheelchairs are patched with duct tape, and refrigerators, microwave ovens and freezers are filthy. Inspectors observed workers feeding residents without speaking to them, and some residents were seen sitting mutely for hours while posted activities never took place.
In another facility, inspectors noted that the privacy curtain was not drawn around a resident’s bed while his wounds were tended to. The resident’s diaper was open and his roommate observed the whole procedure.
In yet another, residents can only withdraw their own money stored in the nursing home “bank” on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 – 3 p.m., even if an unexpected need arises at other times. In addition, while the total amount of resident funds managed by the facility at time of inspection was $130,825, the facility's Surety Bond Policy only covered up to $100,000.
Now there are two ways Brooklynites can investigate conditions at nursing homes before moving a loved one into the facility. The first is national in scope: Pro Publica, a nonprofit news research organization, has just launched an online tool called Nursing Home Inspect, which searches thousands of recent nursing-home inspections all over the country and provides the full written reports.
The inspections list nearly 118,000 deficiencies at 14,565 U.S. nursing homes, including 60 in Brooklyn. The reports come from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nursing Home Inspect allows searches by keyword and city, as well as a home’s name.
The results are a snapshot and not always comprehensive, says Pro Publica. Almost all nursing homes have been cited for some deficiencies, so they are not necessarily an indication that a home is subpar.
The second online tool is provided by the New York State Department of Health (DOH). The DOH website provides online nursing home profiles which can be used in conjunction with the Pro Publica tool. DOH gives star ratings for various services and complaints, provides inspection reports, allows users to compare nursing homes, and lists fines paid by homes.
For example, users can compare the percentage of patients who develop bedsores in nursing homes across Brooklyn. In the home with the highest rating, 5 percent of patients developed the sores. In the worst, 34 percent did. (The national average is 11 percent.)
Looking at the percentage of nursing home residents who receive an annual flu shot, users can learn that in the highest rated home in Brooklyn, 100 percent of residents received the vaccine – while in the worst, only 15 percent did.
Another important measure is the percentage of long-term residents who are physically restrained. At the highest rated Brooklyn nursing home, only 1 percent were restrained. At the most restrictive home, 6 percent of patients were. (The national average is 2 percent.)
Patient depression is another indicator of nursing home quality. At the highest rated nursing homes in Brooklyn, only 1 percent of patients showed depressive symptoms. At the worst, a remarkable 92 percent – virtually all – of the patients were depressed. (Yet this home did not receive an unusual number of complaints or fines in other areas.)
DOH advises that people use this information as a starting point to ask questions of nursing home representatives and health care professionals, as well as family members and friends who may have direct experience with a particular nursing home. Most importantly, they say, visit nursing homes in which you are interested.
The government isn’t aware of all problems in nursing homes, so don’t assume if there is no report that a home doesn’t have problems, says Pro Publica. A complete list of nursing homes is available on Medicare’s website.