A recent in-depth analysis published by The Boston Globe shows that 6 in 10 nursing homes advertising care specifically for dementia patients may be sidestepping state rules intended to avoid false advertising.
A review by the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire echoes an earlier study conducted by Globe reporters this year, showing these centers may not be as equipped to handle the intensity of care advanced dementia patients need. But that hasn’t stopped them from accepting new patients suffering from advanced stages of dementia-related disease.
Although the research was focused on Massachusetts, this problem is not isolated to that state. But these snapshots of how nursing homes provide care for these estimated 40,000 elderly residents shows us where the shortcomings are throughout the rest of the country.
In 2012, that state passed a law with the intention of preventing deceptive advertising among nursing homes. The idea was to stop facilities from claiming they could provide specialized care that met minimal standards for dementia patients, when in fact they could not.
Legislators who championed the law expressed concern that it was not being followed, and that there seemed to be a lack of accountability for it.
That accountability is supposed to come from the state health department. That agency said it hadn’t yet seen the organization’s review. However, it said that while inspectors do analyze dementia services and advertising as part of their routine inspections, there is no separate effort to ensure compliance with the law.
Prior to passage of that measure, there was a loophole that allowed facilities to advertise their ability to care for dementia patients, even if none of their workers had been specially trained, their facilities were not equipped to prevent wandering patients and they had no specialized activities for those residents. This has the potential for leading to a nursing home negligence lawsuit if a patient wanders off or suffers some other harm as a result.
Efforts to pass a law that would close this loophole took a full two years. Now, all of the state’s more than 400 nursing homes are required to enroll staff in dementia care training. This was true even at facilities that don’t advertise specialized dementia care, and the reason is more than half of all nursing home residents are believed to be in some stage of dementia.
Meanwhile, those who actually do advertise specialized dementia services have to offer:
- An activities director who can make certain residents are engaging in activities that are meaningful
- Larger common spaces
- Outdoor areas that are fenced in
Only 83 of the nursing homes in the state have provided proof that they provide these services. However, in an analysis of 320 other nursing homes, more than a third made advertising claims indicating they did provide care to people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and/or cognitive impairments. However, these facilities hadn’t provided any documentation to the state proving their qualifications.
While representatives of these nursing homes said their understanding of the law was that they didn’t need to provide proof to the state, the health department stated otherwise, as that filing was also one of the law’s requirements.
A number of elder care advocacy groups have been filing complaints with the health department on this and other issues.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Group faults Mass. nursing home dementia care, July 15, 2015, By Kay Lazar, The Boston Globe
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