In a recent NY Times article, author Paul Span details the current struggles of the nursing home industry and the implications it may have for the elderly. Span details that many five-star rated nursing home facilities are experiencing a decline in residents leading many to close. Although many of these nursing home business also provided independent and assisted living services to cover the financial losses, they were ultimately unable to financially sustain themselves.

Span provides statistics from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, which shows an all time low of 81.7% occupancy. Nationwide averages do not capture the entirety of the crisis because a nearly 20% reduction in the average leads to even more drastic reductions in different locales and demographics. Nationwide closures have lead to many residents relocating to other facilities and industry wide layoffs of nursing home caretakers. So while some of the best facilities still have 100% occupancy, this could lead to an increase in pricing. Other facilities will have to cut costs to compete. Both present potential issues as many seniors will effectively be priced out of the best facilities, while cutting costs at other facilities presents the potential problem of inadequate accommodations and staffing.

Span also discusses that changes in health care under the Affordable Care Act have lead to widespread cost saving measures for senior care. In short, the result is a reduction in long term skilled nursing care for the elderly. The emphasis of more recent legislation has been to shift funds to outpatient and short term care which has been a boon to independent and assisted living services at the cost of traditional nursing home facilities. Furthermore, healthcare reform has incentivized nursing home facilities to focus more on short term rehabilitation as opposed to long term care due to medicare reimbursements for the former. Additional implications of relatively recent health care reform is that nursing homes are now transitioning from private to shared rooms, and are hiring fewer staff members to work longer shifts.

Unfortunately, elder abuse and neglect is still a big problem within the community at large and particularly within nursing homes. Health care reform may provide some of the elder community with additional funding and opportunities for a more independent lifestyle, though it appears to come at the expense of those who are unable to enjoy that lifestyle. Cutting costs to remain competitive presents numerous problems such as unsatisfactory supervision and accommodations for an especially vulnerable community. Often times, overworked and stressed out caretakers struggle to meet the needs of residents in understaffed facilities. Many common tragedies that plague nursing home communities such as damaging falls, bed sores, and sexual abuse can be easily prevented with more adequate supervision.

Beloved family members deserve nothing short of the best care in their final years. For over 25 years, attorney Kevin Garrison has represented numerous victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Garrison Law Firm empathizes with the unique struggles and vulnerabilities of the elderly population, and thus has provided justice for them and their families. Garrison Law Firm welcomes all questions and can be reached are by phone or online.