Connecticut, like states all over the country, is being affected by seriously understaffed nursing homes. Understaffing is a primary – but certainly not the only – cause of neglect and abuse that leads to infections, injuries and worse. State lawmakers have increased the minimum number of hours per day that residents are supposed to receive direct care from just under 2 hours to 3. They say their goal is to raise it over 4 hours next year. However, without proper staffing in place, requirements are rendered relatively meaningless.
Nursing home administrators say that Medicaid reimbursement hasn’t kept up with rising costs. One says reimbursement is insufficient “to assure these residents we care for day in and day out are being properly funded. If it’s unrealistically regulated, underfunded and not resident-centered, there’s only one inevitable result: system failure….”
Both residents and family members have complained to state health officials about unacceptable conditions that include residents not being fed, having their diapers changed, being helped to the shower or being bathed and not having anyone available to take them to the bathroom, among other concerns. Something needs to be done about staffing levels that will allow for proper care of residents.
What is “immediate jeopardy?”
Nursing home advocates have also pointed to an increase in immediate jeopardy (IJ) orders or citations. These have risen steadily over the past few years – from 15 in 2020 to 24 in 2022. There were 12 in the first half of 2023, so it like this trend is going to continue or at least hold steady. These are just the immediate jeopardy situations that were reported.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), immediate jeopardy occurs when “noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death.” CMS also notes, “An immediate jeopardy situation is one that is clearly identifiable due to the severity of its harm or likelihood for serious harm and the immediate need for it to be corrected to avoid further or future serious harm.”
Understanding what an IJ order is and that they’re tracked can give families something else to ask about as they evaluate the fitness of various facilities, in addition to their staffing levels. However, it’s always crucial to be on the lookout for signs of negligence and/or abuse if have an elderly loved one in a facility as not all hazards are reported and easy to evaluate in a data-driven fashion.
There’s no doubt that nursing homes are facing staffing and funding challenges. Nonetheless, our loved ones deserve better. If you believe you need to take action against a facility but don’t know where to start, seeking experienced legal guidance is a good first step.