As many as 380,000 people die of infections in long term care facilities every year. (CDC)
And according to the CDC's data, 1-3 million serious infections occur every year in these facilities. (CDC)
Nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities (collectively known as long-term care facilities) are supposed to be a safe space for the elderly.
Yet according to the information above, this is sadly not always the case.
These infections include urinary tract infection, diarrheal diseases, antibiotic-resistant staph infections and many others.
In 2004, the National Nursing Home Survey found that 11% of nursing home residents had pressure ulcers (also known as bedsores). (CDC)
And about 10 years after that, an investigation by Kaiser Health News and the Chicago Tribune has found that nursing homes around the country are failing to prevent bedsores and other infections that can lead to sepsis. (Kaiser Health News)
A federal report has also found that care related to sepsis was the most common reason given for transfers of nursing home residents to hospitals and noted that such cases ended in death “much more often” than hospitalizations for other conditions. (Kaiser Health News)
A special analysis conducted for Kaiser Health News by Definitive Healthcare, a private health care data firm, found that 25,000 a year suffered from sepsis, among other conditions.
Not only does this lead to a large toll in terms of lost lives, but all these infections are also very expensive. The treatment of these 25,000 sepsis patients costs Medicare more than $2 billion annually, according to Medicare billings from 2012 through 2016 analyzed by Definitive Healthcare. (Kaiser Health News)
“This is an enormous public health problem for the United States,” said Dr. Steven Simpson, a professor of medicine at the University of Kansas and a sepsis expert. “People don’t go to a nursing home so they can get sepsis and die. That is what is happening a lot.” (Kaiser Health News)
Sepsis is a bloodstream infection that can develop in bedridden patients with pneumonia, urinary tract infections and other conditions, such as pressure sores. Patient safety groups consider late-stage pressure sores to be a “never” event because they largely can be prevented by turning immobile people every two hours and by taking other precautions. Yet nursing homes clearly are not doing enough to take these precautions, given the large number of patients getting sepsis.
The failures that can produce sepsis persist and are widespread in America’s nursing homes, according to data on state inspections kept by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (Kaiser Health News)
Mass numbers of our elderly are getting infections and dying in nursing homes, when these infections could be easily prevented by very basic measures. It is time for a change.
LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS IN NURSING HOMES
Below we will mention some legal action that is taking place to help improve conditions in nursing homes.
Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 (Center for Mediacare Advocacy) H.R. 5216 S.2943
On November 22, 2019, Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Richard Blumenthal introduced the "Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019" (H.R. 5216 and S. 2943, respectively) to address resident care and quality of life concerns. The Act establishes minimum staffing ratios, improves disclosure of nurse staffing levels, expands staff training and supervision requirements, creates whistleblower and resident protections, prohibits pre-dispute arbitration agreements, and develops a protocol for obtaining written informed consent for psychotropic drugs. Importantly, the Act also imposes meaningful financial penalties for noncompliance.
LEGISLATION TO PUSH COVID 19 RESPONSE IN NURSING HOMES
Schakowsky, 87 House Democrats Urge Trump Administration To Prioritize Coronavirus Testing In Nursing Homes And All Long-Term Care (Jan Schakowsky)
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Chair of the Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, led 87 of her colleagues in sending a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma asking them to allocate a portion of the $25 billion in funding for COVID-19 testing provided by Congress as part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (the Act) to enhance diagnostic testing at long-term care facilities.
Inspections, testing top long-term care priorities of House task force (McKnight Senior Living)
After calling for long-term care and affordable seniors housing to be priorities for future pandemic relief legislation, the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging and Families has announced a blueprint that will guide its efforts through the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes prioritizing testing in long-term care facilities, increasing the frequency of surprise inspections, making treatments and vaccinations affordable and accessible, promoting telehealth, providing transparency in the delivery of testing supplies and personal protective equipment, and tracking and publicizing coronavirus data.
Nursing Homes and Assisted Living (Long-term Care Facilities [LTCFs]) (CDC)
Coronavirus Is Hitting Nursing Homes Hard. How We Treat the Elderly Made It Inevitable. (The New York Times, 5-17-20)
Pressure Ulcers Among Nursing Home Residents: United States, 2004 (CDC, 2009)
Avoidable Sepsis Infections Send Thousands Of Seniors To Gruesome Deaths (Kaiser Health News, 9-5-18)