Government updates nursing home rules: Impact on residents

Requiring the use of nursing care to assist loved ones is a common need. Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States rely on these facilities to meet their daily care needs. Many of these facilities provide a high level of care, but others do not. In some instances, neglect or poor care can result in injury to loved ones.

In an effort to reduce the risk of injury at these facilities, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently put forth a set of policy changes. In order to continue to receive funding from these government bodies, the facilities must implement the changes.

What were the policy changes made by the government to nursing homes in the United States?

The CMS finalized the policy changes in a rule that was completed in 2016. It is designed to result in the improvement of "care, safety, and consumer protections for long-term care residents." The updates are the first to be made to the system since 1991.

As noted in a recent newsroom release by the CMS, the policy changes are aimed at increasing the quality of care in these facilities by specifically addressing "unnecessary hospital readmissions and infections" as well as working to strengthen the safety measures put in place to protect these residents.

Some key changes that result from this rule include:

  • Training updates. The rule requires that staff receive proper training in an effort to reduce the risk of elder abuse.
  • Flexible meals. The changes are also designed to allow residents more flexibility in when they choose to eat their meals. The updates also encourage facilities to allow dietitians more control over the types of meals that are available.
  • Staffing adjustments. The rule also ensures that these facilities take the health of residents into consideration when making scheduling plans for the level of staffing that is available at any given time.

The rule is designed to go into effect at three different time periods. The first wave went into effect in November of 2016, the second at some point this calendar year and the final wave comes out in 2019.

How effective are the updates?

Unfortunately, the rule has already faced some setbacks. One of the key changes included in the first release wave was a challenge to the provision regarding the use of arbitration. The new law essentially removed the ability to require residents use arbitration to settle any potential dispute. Arbitration is a private system and its use kept information about potential issues within a nursing care facility from the public. The arbitration process also may have been unfair to the resident, potentially biased in the nursing facility's favor.

The ban against mandatory arbitration was put on hold shortly after it went into effect due to an injunction by a court out of Mississippi.

How will these changes impact residents?

Ideally, the changes will continue to move forward and will translate to increased quality of care for residents. However, those who believe that their loved ones are not receiving an adequate level of care have options.

If you believe your loved one is a victim of negligent or abusive care at one of these facilities, compensation may be available through a personal injury lawsuit. This can result in both holding the offending party accountable for their actions while also translating to a monetary award to help cover the costs associated with any resulting injury. Seek the counsel of an attorney to discuss this option and better ensure your legal rights are protected.